Eighteen months after its publication, FIVE FOR FREEDOM: The African American Soldiers in John Brown’s Army continues to garner praise. The latest comes from “The Journal of Military History,” a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal and the official journal of the Society for Military History.
“I cannot recommend this book enough,” writes reviewer Barbara Gannon in the January 2020 issue of The Journal of American History. “The general reader will enjoy its accessibility, but it will also be excellent in the undergraduate classroom.”
Gannon,, an associate professor of history at the University of Central Florida and author of THE WON CAUSE: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic, writes, “Academic readers will find much to admire in Meyer’s remarkable book. It is well written microhistoyr of these men in the raid; yet it is also an account of the lingering echoes of their life and death in the decades since…Meyer’s study highlights many critical issues related to the Civil War and its memory and legacy, a subject we still contest 260 years after the Harpers Ferry raid.”
Detailing the lives of the give men before the raid, “the author provides readers with a fascinating micro study of anti-bellum black life in slavery and freedom….Eugene L. Meyer, in FIVE FOR FREEDOM, seeks to rectify the amnesia about these men and their participation in one of the most important events in U.S:. history.”
The story of these five heroic men, overshadowed for 160 years by their martyred commander, continues to resonate. It is not a story of the past but, as a Park Service ranger told me, a story from the past that is relevant in the present.
After some 30 presentations, plus podcasts and radio interviews, I have two more events coming up: On Sunday, March 8, at 4 p.m. I’ll be in Claiborne, a former Chesapeake ferry port on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, to share the story of Five for Freedom with folks from that small hamlet and from Sherwood, a few miles down the road. The event will be held at the Claiborne community building, formerly a Methodist Church. The following month, on Sunday, April 19 at 2 p.m., I’ll be speaking at Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue Unitarian Church of All Souls.
Lynching, Just Mercy and the Equal Justice Initiative
On a related subject, I’ve been happy to see the attention being given to “Just Mercy,” the new film based on the 2014 memoir of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the Legacy Museum, both in Montgomery, Ala., to commemorate the nearly 4,000 people lynched in the South from 1867 to 1950. Three of the victims were lynched in Montgomery County, Md. I have written about their lives and deaths for Bethesda Magazine and the Washington Post. In coordination with the Legacy Museum, local residents have recently marked the 1880 lynching of George Peck in Poolesville by collecting soil samples at the site to be transported, stored and displayed in Montgomery, Alabama. In addition to the lynching project, the EJI under Stevenson has saved 125 men from receiving the death penalty, the subject of his memoir and the new film.