John Brown:
Revolutionary or Murderer
Published: On this date
John Brown Portrait

John Brown, born on May 9, 1800, in Torrington, Connecticut, was an abolition extremist during the 19th century, most famously associated with the raid on Harpers Ferry.

How was John Brown introduced to abolitionism?

Brown's interest in abolitionism stemmed from his father, Owen, who appalled the institution. In 1825 Brown built a tannery and a cabin in New Richmond, Virginia, with a secret room in it that was used to house fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad. The cabin and tannery were used to aid an estimated 2,500 slaves in escaping to the North from 1825 to 1835.

Young Portrait of John Brown Portrait of John Brown
What was the raid on Harpers Ferry?

After the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 was passed, both pro- and anti-slavery groups inhabited the Kansas Territory. In 1856, a pro-slavery group attacked the town of Lawrence, which was founded by abolitionists from Massachusetts. In retaliation, abolitionist John Brown organized a raid that killed five pro-slavery settlers.

On October 16–18, 1859, Brown led 21 armed men, 5 blacks and 16 white, to the railroad town of Harpers Ferry. His goal was to seize the federal arsenal there and then lead a slave insurrection across the South. Brown and his men engaged in a two-day standoff with local militia and federal troops, in which ten of his men were shot or killed, five were captured, and five escaped.

The raid on Harpers Ferry What was Virginia v. John Brown?

Brown and his followers were convicted of treason and Brown was hanged for the crime.

Trial of John Brown What was John Brown's last speech?

Link to full speech here.

John Brown on the way to be executed two and one-half blocks from the jail to his scaffold. What was John Brown's legacy?

The raid on Harpers Ferry incited fear in southern slave owners who thought that a change in mindset was washing over the American conscience.

John Brown's Grave

There is also a museum in commemoration of Brown's actions.

Work Cited
  1. Brown, John. (2018). Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 1;
  2. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Advanced Placement United States History Study Guide. (2011, November 21). Retrieved March 27, 2020, from’s-final-speech-1859
  3. John Brown Farm, Tannery & Museum. (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2020, from
  4. Phillips, J. (2014). Harpers Ferry looming: a history of the future. Rethinking History, 18(1), 10–27.
  5. WGBH (1998). "The raid on Harpers Ferry". Africans in America. PBS.
All images used are part of the Public Domain. No images were altered.