John Brown: Sinner or saint? Freedom fighter or terrorist?
He personified performance, acting when no one else sharing his antislavery views did. He embodied old-fashioned (even for that era) values of steadfastness, fervent religiousness, empathy for the less fortunate, and aversion to material wealth.
Brown dedicated his life to abolitionism—in deed as well as word—since 1837, when in church he raised his hand and before the congregation swore his devotion, an oath he never broke.
Significantly, many African Americans considered Brown the only white man worthy of their admiration, right up to the 1960s. The following play may explain why.
Brown’s actions sparked the Civil War, some scholars say. He and his followers fought border ruffians in Kansas, guided escaped slaves toward Canada, and at Harper’s Ferry, lit the Southern powder keg that, after Abraham Lincoln’s election, led to the secession of several states.
John Brown: fanatic? murderer? liberator? Or just a plain, determined man?
He calmly accepted his fate—death by hanging—hoping his execution would impel lassitudinous Northerners into action.
And it did, epitomized by John Brown’s body.
Read how it happened.