By Linda Stewart
MIDDLETOWN – Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Horwitz, bestselling historian and author, was the featured speaker at the 8th Annual Jacob Needle Lecture, at Brookdale Community College the evening of April 11. The event, sponsored by the college’s history department, generated an overflow audience, estimated as half Brookdale students and faculty, half local citizenry, doubtless a reflection of Horwitz’s popularity as both author and speaker.
The 8th Anniversary of the Jacob Needle Lecture coincided with the publication of Horwitz’s most recent book Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War, a re-telling of John Brown’s epic raid on October 16, 1859 of the U.S. arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in Virginia. Speaking in the same comfortable style that characterizes his writing, Horwitz dismissed the widely accepted view of Connecticut-born John Brown as a wild-eyed, semi-crazed, religious zealot. Instead he painted a portrait of a devoted family man, a farmer, an anguished idealist who saw slavery as an offense against God and nationhood. In the name of abolition, Brown led his self-styled “army” of 18 followers in a misconceived military adventure to occupy the U.S. arsenal. His effort was swiftly put down by U.S. troops under the command of then-Colonel Robert E. Lee. Forty-seven days later, John Brown strangled to death at the end of a too-short hangman’s rope in an execution that continues to reverberate through our country’s history.
Tony Horwitz, 54 years old is the author of Blue Latitudes, an account of Captain Cook’s South Pacific voyages in the 18th century; Confederates in the Attic, an examination of the ongoing effects of the Civil War throughout the South; A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World; and Baghdad Without a Map. He is married to Australian-born Geraldine Brooks, also a Pulitzer Prize winner. With their two young sons they live on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.