160 Years Ago A Meeting In Detroit Helped Set the Course of American History

160 years ago, abolitionist John Brown came to Detroit with 11 former slaves seeking freedom across the Detroit River in Canada.

During that trip, Brown met with other leading abolitionists of the day — including Frederick Douglass and William Webb — in Webb’s home in Detroit. Tuesday marks the 160th anniversary of that meeting, which set the course by which Brown helped spark the social upheaval that led to the Civil War and the end of slavery.

The University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law and the DeWitt C. Holbrook Memorial Trust are hosting an event on Tuesday about that meeting titled, “Detroit’s Abolitionist History: 160 Years of Fighting for Justice.”

The keynote speaker at that event is David Reynolds, author of “John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights.” He’s also a distinguished professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Reynolds speaks with Detroit Today producer Jake Neher about Brown’s life and violent activism, that meeting in Detroit, and the struggle to contextualize Brown’s complicated legacy in the modern era.

Click on the audio player above to hear that conversation.

Image credit: Penguin Random House

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