Losing Your Head: Why Du Bois and Emerson (Mostly) Like John Brown

Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)


When U. S. Army and Gulf Warveteran Timothy James McVeigh chose April 19 to carry out his deadly bombing attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Okalahoma City in 1995, he did so in deliberate protest of the FBI raid on the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993 and the beginning of the federal siege of a white supremacist enclave near Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992, both of which occurred on that same date. While Waco and Ruby Ridge served as McVeigh’s immediate motivation, he took inspiration from a source much further removed in time: John Brown’s 1859 assault on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. In the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, which claimed the lives of 168 people and injured 450 more, McVeigh, who had trained at Fort Riley, Kansas, prior to Operation Desert Storm, drew a direct comparison between his actions and those of Brown, who gained much of his own combat experience in Kansas during the bloody guerrilla warfare between pro- and antislavery forces in the 1850s. Like McVeigh, Brown was seen by most of his contemporaries as a radical extremist and a domestic terrorist; and, like McVeigh, he was put on trial, convicted on multiple counts of first-degree murder, and eventually executed.


Oklahoma City Bombing Double Consciousness Domestic Terrorist Romantic Character White Audience 
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© Ryan Schneider 2010

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