John Brown (abolitionist)

American abolitionist

John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859) was an American abolitionist. Brown supported using violence to end slavery in the United States. He first got national attention when he led small groups of people during the Bleeding Kansas crisis of 1856.

John Brown
1846-47 John Brown by Augustus Washington (without frame).jpg
Photo by Augustus Washington, circa 1846–1847
Born(1800-05-09)May 9, 1800
DiedDecember 2, 1859(1859-12-02) (aged 59)
Charles Town, Virginia, United States
(today located in West Virginia)
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
Resting placeNorth Elba, New York
44°15′08″N 73°58′18″W / 44.252240°N 73.971799°W / 44.252240; -73.971799Coordinates: 44°15′08″N 73°58′18″W / 44.252240°N 73.971799°W / 44.252240; -73.971799
MonumentsStatues in Kansas City, Kansas and North Elba, New York; Tragic Prelude, mural in the Kansas State Capitol; John Brown Farm State Historic Site, North Elba, New York; John Brown Museum and John Brown Historic Park, Osawatomie, Kansas; Museum and Statue, Akron, Ohio; John Brown Tannery Site, Guys Mills, Pennsylvania
OccupationTanner; cattle, horse, and sheep breeder and trader; farmer
Known forInvolvement in Bleeding Kansas; raid on federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia
Home townHudson, Ohio
Criminal statusExecuted
ChildrenWatson, Oliver, Owen
Conviction(s)Guilty of all counts
Criminal chargeTreason against state of Virginia; murder; conspiracy
Partner(s)Secret Six
DateOctober 16–18, 1859
State(s)Virginia (since 1863, West Virginia)
Location(s)Harpers Ferry
John Brown signature.svg

Early yearsEdit

Brown was a white man, born in Torrington, Connecticut. He strongly believed in Christianity. He believed that Christians should treat people the same no matter what color their skin was. Many white Christians in America at this time did not agree with this.[1]

Kansas and the Pottawatomie MassacreEdit

Brown lived mostly in Springfield, Massachusetts before moving to the Kansas Territory. This would later become the state of Kansas in 1861. Several of his sons were already living there. Brown's sons wanted his help to fight people from Missouri. The people in Missouri wanted slavery to be legal in Kansas. On May 24, 1856, Brown and his sons killed five people in Kansas who wanted slavery to be legal. They dragged the people out of their homes and killed them with swords. This came to be known as the Pottawatomie massacre.[2] Many people in Kansas were shocked and upset about this. More violent things happened after this. This was the beginning of the period in the Kansas Territory known as Bleeding Kansas.[3] Before leaving Kansas, Brown and his followers were attacked at the Battle of Osawatomie on August 30, 1856.[4] His son Frederick was killed there.[5]

Harper's FerryEdit

Brown's "fort" (a firehouse) was attacked by US Marines

In 1859, Brown decided to attack the Harpers Ferry Armory in Harper's Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia).[6] He was planning on giving the weapons to slaves.[6] The slaves would use the weapons to fight against their masters and become free. Brown attacked the arsenal in October 1859. His sons and several other men, including several black men, helped him with the attack.[6] His attack failed. Brown was captured, and was executed by hanging for treason against the state of Virginia on December 2, 1859.[6] Public opinion

People had strong feelings about John Brown. Some people thought that he was crazy or evil. Other people thought that he was a hero. His attack on Harpers Ferry helped lead to the American Civil War. The war would start in 1861.[7]


  1. Reynolds, D (2005). John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights, Knopf.
  2. Walter, Bob (April 13, 2001). "Pottawatomie Massacre". Blue Skyways. Retrieved March 13, 2010.
  3. Chris Rein. "Pottawatomie Massacre". Civil War on the Western Border. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  4. "Battle of Osawatomie". Civil War on the Western Border. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
  5. "Battle of Osawatomie". Kansas Legends. Legends of America. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "John Brown's Harpers Ferry". History. A&E Television Networks, LLC. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  7. McNamara, Robert. "John Brown, Fanatical Abolitionist Whose Raid at Harpers Ferry Led to Civil War". Retrieved March 13, 2010.

Other websitesEdit