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Crown of Thorns

Political Martyrdom in America From Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Eyal Naveh

Publication Year: 1990

"A provocative treatment of political martyrdom in the United States . . . . a well-crafted, thought-provoking book."
The Lincoln Herald

"In the U.S., dead politicians and controversial reformers have frequently been called martyrs to a cause. But achieving martyrdom is more elusive than simply being jailed, murdered, or rejected in fighting for what one believes. This is the thrust of Naveh's argument, which traces the martyr motif in American political culture since the 1830s."
Choice

"Drawing upon eulogies and obituaries, sermons and biographies, poems and public memorials, Crown of Thorns is most valuable in providing a taxonomy that helps suggest why some public figures sink into oblivion while a very few others belong to the ages."
The Journal of American History

"Naveh makes admirable use of a wide range of primary sources, particularly those drawn from popular rather than elite culture . . . . well written . . . Crown of Thorns should be of some interest to all who are interested in the dynamics of cultural inertia and social change in the United States."
History

Published by: NYU Press

Contents

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pp. v-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-

I am indebted to several people for their advice and assistance in writing this book. First and foremost, I am grateful to my dissertation adviser, Paula S. Pass, who supervised every stage of the writing with immense care and helped me to clarify my ideas and improve my writing. Her suggestions and criticism, advice...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-8

The martyr as hero appeared in Western culture centuries before the discovery of the New World. Socrates, Leonidas, Judah the Maccabee, Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Galileo, Jordano Bruno, William of Orange, and many others suffered and, in most cases, sacrificed their lives, for a sublime purpose. Later generations...

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1. Suffering for the Sin of Slavery

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pp. 9-21

AIthough the symbolic figure of the martyr in its religious setting was familiar to most Americans, the concept of sacrifice, suffering, and martyrdom, became an important ideological component of American political discourse only in the midnineteenth...

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2. John Brown's Body—And Spirit

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pp. 22-49

John Brown was born on May 9, 1800, in Torrington, Connecticut, one of the sixteen children of Owen Brown, whose father had served as a captain in the Revolutionary War. John grew up in the Western Reserve frontier of Ohio and at the age of eighteen intended to become a Congregational minister, yet he did not finish...

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3. Abraham Lincoln—The National Martyr

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pp. 50-82

On Good Friday 1865 Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, was shot by an assassin. He died hours later. This event profoundly shocked the country, sealing the tragic period of the Civil War with both a catastrophic and sublime climax. Americans had never experienced an assassination...

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4. Sacrifice for Law and Order

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pp. 83-102

Two American presidents besides Lincoln fell victim to an assassin's bullet within less than forty years. On July 2, 1881, James Abraham Garfield, the twentieth president of the United States, was shot by a disappointed office seeker in Washington, D.C., and died eighty days later on September 19, 1881. Twenty years later,...

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5. Progressive Reformers and Martyrdom: Mixed Attitudes

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pp. 103-139

Wendell Phillips was a renowned reformer who participated in both the early and later reform movements of the nineteenth century and was therefore defined by certain spokesmen as the last abolitionist and the first Progressive.1<.sup> He vigorously affirmed martyrdom for the cause throughout his career, never...

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6. On Revolution's Altar

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pp. 140-166

In Jane Addams and the Liberal Tradition, Daniel Levine defined radicalism in relative terms: "People who want to change a lot of important things rapidly are more radical than people who want to change less important things, or fewer...

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7. Contemporary America: Decline and Resurrection of the Martyr

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pp. 167-192

The martyr embodies symbolically a rich biblical tradition of sin, fall, suffering, sacrifice, and redemption. This tradition, which has given meaning to the American experience, is not only a religious manifestation but also a cultural phenomenon, an essential part of what can be called the American civil religion. Yet,...

Notes

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pp. 193-228

Select Bibliography

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pp. 229-242

Index

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pp. 243-248


E-ISBN-13: 9780814759257
E-ISBN-10: 0814759254
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814758717
Print-ISBN-10: 0814758711

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 1990