Academic journal article Journalism History

Book Reviews -- Freedom's Champion: Elijah Lovejoy by Paul Simon

Academic journal article Journalism History

Book Reviews -- Freedom's Champion: Elijah Lovejoy by Paul Simon

Article excerpt

Simon, Paul. Freedom's Champion: Elijah Lovejoy. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1994. 232 pp. $14.95.

Elijah Lovejoy, the first martyr to freedom of the press, is little known today except in his native Maine and in Illinois, where he was murdered by an angry mob. Many journalists and most journalism historians have heard of the abolitionist editor who died defending his press from an angry mob in 1837, but the general population is unfamiliar with his story and his name.

This is the second biography of Elijah Lovejoy written by Illinois Senator Paul Simon, who has written fourteen books. In fact, it is something of an expansion and refinement of his first biography, Lovejoy: Martyr to Freedom, which was published in 1964.

Although more than 100 years separate Lovejoy and Simon, they have much in common. Lovejoy died in Madison County, Illinois; Simon is from Madison County. Lovejoy was a journalist whose newspaper was the Alton Observer; before going into politics, Simon was a journalist whose newspaper, the Troy Tribune, was located just a few miles from Alton. Lovejoy was a crusader; Simon earned that reputation before he became a politician.

In the forward to this biography, journalist Clarence Page wrote that Simon "has uncovered a complicated man whose restless spirit and single-minded, religiously fired idealism showed many characteristics, some of them more noble than others. Simon shows Lovejoy to be a less-than-perfect hero." This is one of the strengths of the book.

It is always a temptation to lionize dead heroes, but by doing so, they become dehumanized. Lovejoy's weaknesses and prejudices are exposed (for example, his bias against Roman Catholicism, which was typical of the era), but so are his strength and his courage. …

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