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John Brown (abolitionist)

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John Brown in 1859

John Brown (9 May 1800 – 2 December 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 24 May 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 was called the Pottawatomie Massacre.[2] Many people in Kansas were shocked and upset about this. More violent things happened after this. Some people started calling the Kansas Territory "Bleeding Kansas".

Harper's Ferry

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

In 1859, Brown went to Harpers Ferry, Virginia. He went there to attack a federal arsenal (a place where the government kept a large collection of weapons). He was planning on giving the weapons to slaves. The slaves would use the weapons to fight against their masters and become free. (Harpers Ferry is now part of West Virginia instead of Virginia). Brown attacked the arsenal in October 1859. His sons and several other men, including several black men, helped him with the attack. His attack did not work. He was captured, and was executed by hanging for treason on 2 December 1859.

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.[3]


  1. Reynolds, D (2005). John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights, Knopf.
  2. Walter, Bob (13 April, 2001). "Pottawatomie Massacre". Blue Skyways. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  3. McNamara, Robert. "John Brown, Fanatical Abolitionist Whose Raid at Harpers Ferry Led to Civil War". Retrieved 13 March 2010.