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This space is devoted to the honor and recognition of people who have allied themselves with the struggle for social justice.

John C. Brown

Born: May 9, 1800 Torrington, Connecticut

Died: December 2, 1859 (aged 59) Charles Town, West Virginia (then Virginia) Cause of death: Hanging Resting place: John Brown Farm and Gravesite Known for: Pottawatomie Massacre Raid on Harpers Ferry Children: 20 (11 survived to adulthood)

John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859) was a revolutionary abolitionist from the United States, who advocated and practiced armed insurrec- tion as a means to abolish slavery for good. He led the Pottawatomie Massacre during which five men were killed in 1856 in Bleeding Kansas and made his name in the unsuccessful raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859. He was tried and executed for treason against the state of Virginia, murder, and conspiracy later that year. Brown has been called “the most controversial of all 19th-century Americans.” Brown’s attempt in 1859 to start a lib- eration movement among enslaved African Americans in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) electrified the nation. He was tried for treason against the state of Virginia, the murder of five pro-slavery Southerners, and inciting a slave insurrection and was subsequently hanged. Southerners alleged that his rebellion was the tip of

Unlike most other Northerners, who advocated peaceful resist- ance to the pro-slavery faction, Brown demanded violent action in response to Southern aggression.

the abolitionist iceberg and represented the wishes of the Republican Party. Historians agree that the Harpers Ferry raid in 1859 escalated tensions that, a year later, led to secession and the American Civil War. Brown first gained attention when he led small groups of volunteers during the Bleeding Kansas crisis. Unlike most other Northerners, who advocated peaceful resistance to the pro-slavery fac- tion, Brown demanded violent action in response to Southern aggression. Dissatisfied with the pacifism encour- aged by the organized abolitionist move- ment, he reportedly said “These men are all talk. What we need is action— action!” During the Kansas campaign he and his supporters killed five pro-slavery southerners in what became known as the Pottawatomie Massacre in May 1856 in response to the raid

of the “free soil” city of Lawrence. In 1859 he led a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (in modern- day West Virginia). During the raid, he seized the armory; seven people were killed, and ten or more were injured. He intended to arm slaves with weapons from the arsenal, but the attack failed. Within 36 hours, Brown’s men had fled or been killed or captured by local farm- ers, militiamen, and U.S. Marines led by Robert E. Lee. Brown’s subsequent cap-


I apologize for what happened. I’m a bonehead. I really do care about you and I would never purposely do anything to hurt you. If you never spoke to me again, I would deserve it. What I said, didn’t come across exactly the way it was intended. I hope you can forgive me and accept my apology.

I have been worried sick about you since it happened. I feel so terrible for my behavior that I haven’t been able to sleep or eat. I believe that, deep down, you know I have always had feelings for you. However, I should have been honest with you about the way that I felt. I only hope and pray that, one day, you find it in your heart to give me an opportunity to make this up to you.


Doris Bradley, Agent Lic # 0B73377

6764 Solita Ave., San Diego, CA 92115 619.309.5394 • 619.698.4783

Indian Voices • May 2011

ture by federal forces seized the nation’s attention, as Southerners feared it was just the first of many Northern plots to cause a slave rebellion that would kill millions, while Republicans ridiculed the notion and said they would not interfere with slavery in the South. Historians agree John Brown played a

major role in the start of the Civil War. David Potter (1976) said the emotional effect of Brown’s raid was greater than the philosophical effect of the Lincoln- Douglas debates, and that his raid revealed a deep division between North and South. Brown’s actions prior to the Civil War as an abolitionist, and the tac- tics he chose, still make him a controver- sial figure today. He is sometimes memo- rialized as a heroic martyr and a vision- ary and sometimes vilified as a madman and a terrorist. Some writers, such as Bruce Olds, describe him as a monoma- niacal zealot, others, such as Stephen B. Oates, regard him as “one of the most perceptive human beings of his genera- tion.” David S. Reynolds hails the man who “killed slavery, sparked the civil war, and seeded civil rights” and Richard Owen Boyer emphasizes that Brown was “an American who gave his life that mil- lions of other Americans might be free.” For Ken Chowder he is “at certain times, a great man”, but also “the father of American terrorism.” The song “John Brown’s Body” became a Union marching song during the Civil War.

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