John Brown (abolitionist)

John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859) was an American abolitionist.

Early years

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 Massacre

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 Ferry

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.

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