Forgotten Firebrand

Forgotten Firebrand

James Redpath and the Making of Nineteenth-Century America

The reformer James Redpath (1833–1891) was a focal figure in many of the key developments in nineteenth-century American political and cultural life. He befriended John Brown, Samuel Clemens, and Henry George and, toward the end of his life, was a ghostwriter for Jefferson Davis. He advocated for abolition, civil rights, Irish nationalism, women's suffrage, and labor unions. In Forgotten Firebrand, the first full-length biography of this fascinating American, John R. McKivigan portrays the many facets of Redpath's life, including his stint as a reporter for the New York Tribune, his involvement with the Haitian emigration movement, and his time as a Civil War correspondent.

Examining Redpath's varied career enables McKivigan to cast light on the history of journalism, public speaking, and mass entertainment in the United States. Redpath's newspaper writing is credited with popularizing the stenographic interview in the American press, and he can be studied as a prototype for later generations of newspaper writers who blended reportage with participation in reform movements. His influential biography of John Brown justified the use of violent actions in the service of abolitionism.

Redpath was an important figure in the emerging professional entertainment industry in this country. Along with his friend P. T. Barnum, Redpath popularized the figure of the "impresario" in American culture. Redpath's unique combination of interests and talents—for politics, for journalism, for public relations—brought an entrepreneurial spirit to reform that blurred traditional lines between business and social activism and helped forge modern concepts of celebrity.

John R. McKivigan

John R. McKivigan is the Project Director and Editor of the Frederick Douglass Papers and Mary O'Brien Gibson Professor of United States History at IUPUI.



The War against Proslavery Religion
Abolitionism and the Northern Churches, 1830–1865
John R. McKivigan


Contributions:

In the Words of Frederick Douglass
Quotations from Liberty's Champion
Frederick Douglass
A rich trove of nearly seven hundred quotations by Douglass that demonstrate the breadth and strength of his intellect as well as the eloquence with which he expressed his political and ethical principles.