John Brown

By: Elizabeth Missiaen

Who Was John Brown?

John Brown was a famous abolitionist, who worked in the underground railroad, and fought to end slavery. He believed in violent fighting methods, which eventually led to the unsuccessful event at Harpers Ferry.


*To the right is a picture of a John Brown portrait*

John Brown's Early LIfe

John Brown was born on May 9th, 1800 in Torrington, Connecticut. His parents were Ruth Mills and Owen Brown. Owen, John's father believed that slavery was wrong, and when John was 12 years old, traveling through Michigan, he saw a young, African American boy being beaten and whipped. That image stuck with John the rest of his life, and is one of the reasons he became an abolitionist.

John Brown-Abolitionist

John moved a lot between the 1820's and 1850's experiencing huge financial issues. He took part in the underground railroad, and eventually formed a group called the League of Gileadites. The League of Gileadites was a group formed to help protect black citizens from slave hunters.


Brown met with Famous abolitionist Fredrick Douglas in 1847, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Then in 1849, Brown moved and settled into a black community located in North Elba, New York.


1855, John Brown and five of his sons moved to Kansas. At that time, there was argument weather Kansas should be a free or slave state. Brown, who believed in using violence to end slavery became involved in a major conflict. In 1856, he and a few other men killed five "pro-slavery" settlers in Pottawatomie Creek.


*Top right is a picture of John Brown after being captured from the Harpers Ferry Attack*

Harpers Ferry Attack

In 1858, John led a group of enslaved African Americans to freedom in Canada, from Missouri. Then, in Canada Brown spoke about how he was going to try to form a free black community in Maryland and Virginia.


On October 16, 1859, Brown led 21 men to the federal armory of Harpers Ferry in Virginia. There, he held over a dozen men hostage, with a plan to free slaves, and make them rebel against their owners. Brown and his men held out for about 2 days, until military forces led by Robert E. Lee defeated them. Many of Brown's men were killed even including two of his sons. John Brown was captured and went on trial almost immediately. Then, on November 2 he was sentenced to death.


In a speech in court before his sentencing, Brown claimed his actions were based on what God had told him to do. Several men said that the court should look into John Brown's mental state. However, he was still executed on December 2.


*Below is a picture of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia*

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My Reaction

I think it was really interesting to learn more about John Brown. Our history book really got me wondering about what happened at Harpers Ferry, and what led up to John Brown's action and attitude towards his mind set on defeating slavery. I noticed that he really wanted to make a difference and ended up helping slaves. He is an important role in our history, even though he may have been considered in a mental state. John Brown and his revolt aren't mentioned enough to people, and they may never know what his role was in stopping slavery.