“His zeal in the cause of my race was far greater than mine—
it was as the burning sun to my taper light—
mine was bounded by time,
his stretched away to the boundless shores of eternity.
I could live for the slave,
but he could die for him.”
– Fredrick Douglass
This Sunday is John Brown Day over at John Brown’s Smokehouse. In a year promising to one of may firsts – this will be the first BBQ event I have ever done that featured a lecture by a Harvard Professor. Who says country cooking and academics can’t exist together?
I never particularly read up on John Brown prior to my current tenure as Whole Hog expert for JBS. As a child we’ve always been given the impression that John Brown was a necessary evil. Rational logic would not force this country to recognize her violations of the sworn creed of liberty. Slavery was the norm and it required zealous violence of a true believer to get people to start noticing. Our history books would have preferred one that was not so indiscriminate with his killings. Historians to this day debate the characterizations of John Brown – domestic terrorist? Civil rights hero? Martyr? Serial killer?
Any place naming itself after John Brown makes a statement. He’s not an easy person to like. He’s impossible to ignore. If nothing else, John Brown perhaps overturns the “flawed hero” concept. He was not a hero with flaws but his flaw and zealousness pushed him to heroic actions. It’s not a concept foreign to religion. Especially in a Judeo-Christian culture, saints and sinners are not binary figures. In contrast, all saints were sinners, the most famous of them perhaps the worst offenders.
Harvard Professors, Blues Legends, and a whole hog cook will be strange bed-fellows this weekend. I have written at length before about how North Carolina whole hog BBQ is deeply embedded with American slavery. Perhaps it won’t be all that strange after all.