Abolishing the Norm – Episode 4: Over John Brown’s Body

Listen to Episode  Duration 1:12:01

John Brown Frederick Douglass.png
John Brown and Frederick Douglass; two very different men with one goal: ending slavery.


Despite over half a century of abolitionist activity, including subversive activism, dissent, debate, protest and attempts at electoral process, by the end of the 1850s the demise of slavery seemed to some to still be as far from becoming reality as ever.

Enter John Brown. Whereas the division over the issue of slavery had riven the young federal society of the US apart, John Brown never wavered, questioned or acted against the defining principle of his life: slavery was an abomination that must end.

In the course of this pursuit Brown befriended one of the US’s most famous orators, fugitive slave Frederick Douglass, and set about putting a plan into motion that, with Douglass’ help, would make the awful institution untenable.

In this episode we go with Brown, through this defining and contradictory period in world history, as he lays his body down, as well as that of anybody whose sacrifice he deemed would serve the cause, to bring about an end to establishment slavery.

Music used in this episode:

“John Brown’s Body” by Stephen Griffith


Online Archive of John Brown Primary Documents

The life and letters of John Brown, liberator of Kansas, and martyr of Virginia, ed. by F. B. Sanborn

John Brown’s Provisional Constitution

The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass written by himself

Evan Carton – Patriotic Treason

John Brown, Abolitionist – David S. Reynolds

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