James McBride retells the John Brown story
November 29, 2013
GUEST: JAMES MCBRIDE
âI was born a colored man and donât you forget it. But I lived as a colored woman for seventeen years.â These are the words of âOnionâ Shackleford, JAMES MCBRIDEâs latest protagonist, looking back on his years running with the ardent and often violent abolitionist John Brown and his ragged âfreedâ slaves in the Kansas Territory in the late 1850s. Brownâs failed 1859 raid on the federal armory at Harperâs Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) is imprinted in history books, with no former slaves as survivors. But McBride uses the kidnapped Shackelford, disguised as a girl, as a fictitious lens to look back at our countryâs ugly and rich history. McBride returned to Radio Times to discuss his recent novel, âThe Good Lord Bird” in September. Last week he won the prestigious 2013 National Book Award for fiction.