John Brown, a white, 19th-century abolitionist, was born on May 9, 1800. He spent much of his adult life fighting slavery. He gave land to escaped slaves and served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.
Frederick Douglass said after meeting the abolitionist that even though Brown was white, he “is in sympathy a Black man and as deeply interested in our cause, as though his own soul had been pierced with the iron of slavery.”
In 1859, Brown led a group of 21 men, Black and white, in a raid on the federal arsenal at West Virginia’s Harpers Ferry to arm enslaved people with weapons in what he hoped would become an insurrection against slavery.
Brown was captured during the raid and ultimately hanged. He was 59 years old.
Last moments of John Brown at Charles Town, W.V., is depicted in an 1885 illustration. The abolitionist, who had fought to make Kansas a free state attempted to seize arms from the U.S. arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Va., to lead an insurrection to end slavery. He failed and was hanged as a criminal, Dec. 2, 1859. The incident occurred the year before the Civil War began but it brought to the surface the deeply bitter feeling already felt in both North and South. (AP Photo)
A six-ton statue of John Brown, famed abolitionist with an arm around a black boy, was unveiled at Lake Placid, N.Y., May 9, 1935, before a crowd of 1,500. The statue was unveiled by Lyman Eppes, who was present at John Brown’s funeral in 1859. Sculptor was Joseph P. Pollia of New York. (AP Photo)
This is an undated photo of John Brown’s Fort located at the entrance of the Armory Grounds at Harpers Ferry, W. Va. An abolitionist who hoped to start a general slave revolt, Brown and his followers used the fire engine and guard house as their fort when they raided the U.S. armory and arsenal on Oct. 16, 1859. Brown was captured by Colonel Robert E. Lee, put on trial for treason, sentenced to death, and executed in Dec. 1859. (AP Photo)
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