Nat Turner and John Brown: Who They Were and Why They Matter

Richard Bell
Richard Bell
University of Maryland

Dr. Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland. He holds a PhD from Harvard University and has won more than a dozen teaching awards, including the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, and the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship and the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar award. Professor Bell is author of the new book Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home, which was shortlisted for the George Washington Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize. 

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Nat Turner, leader of a slave revolt in Virginia in 1831, and John Brown, leader of the Harpers Ferry raid of 1859, are two of the most controversial figures in American history. But they are also frequently misrepresented in popular culture—too readily denounced or romanticized. In this talk, University of Maryland historian, Dr. Richard Bell, will peel back the layers of mythology to reconstruct the lives and deeds of these two anti-slavery rebels: one Black, one white. Professor Bell will explain what Turner and Brown were trying to accomplish, what actually happened, and why it all matters, and situate both men’s radical activism in the long history of the freedom struggle in America.

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