John Brown (abolitionist)
Photo by Augustus Washington, c. 1846–1847
|Born||May 9, 1800|
Torrington, Connecticut, U.S.
|Died||December 2, 1859 (aged 59)|
|Cause of death||Execution by hanging|
|Resting place||North Elba, New York, U.S.|
|Monuments||Statues 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|
|Occupation||Tanner; cattle, horse, and sheep breeder and trader; farmer|
|Known for||Involvement in Bleeding Kansas; raid on federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia|
(m. 1820; died 1832)
Mary Ann Day
|Children||21 (incl. Owen, Watson, and John Jr.)|
|Conviction(s)||Guilty of all counts|
|Criminal charge||Treason against Commonwealth of Virginia; murder; inciting slave insurrection|
|Date||October 16–18, 1859|
|State(s)||Virginia (since 1863, West Virginia)|
John H. Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859) was an American abolitionist leader. Brown felt that speeches, sermons, petitions, and moral persuasion were ineffective in the cause for abolishing slavery in the United States. An intensely religious man, Brown believed he was raised up by God to strike the death blow to American slavery. He felt that violence was necessary to end it.
Brown first gained national attention when he led anti-slavery volunteers during the Bleeding Kansas crisis of the late 1850s, a state-level civil war over whether Kansas would enter the Union as a slave state or a free state. He was dissatisfied with abolitionist pacifism: "These men are all talk. What we need is action—action!" In May 1856, Brown and his supporters killed five supporters of slavery in the Pottawatomie massacre (May 24), a response to the sacking of Lawrence by pro-slavery forces (May 21), and possibly also to the caning of the Free Kansas supporter, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner (May 22). Brown then commanded anti-slavery forces at the Battle of Black Jack (June 2) and the Battle of Osawatomie (August 30, 1856).
In October 1859, Brown led a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (today West Virginia), intending to start a slave liberation movement that would spread south through the mountainous regions of Virginia and North Carolina; he had prepared a Provisional Constitution for the revised, slavery-free United States he hoped to bring about. He seized the armory, but seven people were killed, and ten or more were injured. Brown intended to arm slaves with weapons from the armory, but very few slaves joined his revolt. Within 36 hours, those of Brown's men who had not fled were killed or captured by local militia and U.S. Marines, the latter led by Robert E. Lee. Brown was hastily tried for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, the murder of five men, and inciting a slave insurrection. He was found guilty of all counts and was hanged on December 2, 1859, the first person executed for treason in the history of the United States.:179
Brown said repeatedly that all of his anti-slavery activities, both in Kansas and Harpers Ferry, were in accordance with the Golden Rule. He said the most famous sentence in the Declaration of Independence—all men are created equal—"meant the same thing".
Historians agree that the Harpers Ferry raid and Brown's trial (Virginia v. John Brown), both covered extensively by the national press, escalated tensions that led a year later to the South's long-threatened secession and the American Civil War. Southerners feared that others would soon follow in Brown's footsteps, encouraging and arming slave rebellions. He was the hero and icon of the North; from 1859 until Lincoln's assassination in 1865, he was the most famous American. Union soldiers marched to the new song "John Brown's Body", that portrayed him as a heroic martyr whose "truth is marching on"; it was the origin of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Newly-freed blacks walked to the same song, and they lowered their voices speaking of Brown, as if he were a saint.
As Brown's son, John Brown, Jr., told a visitor just before the raid on Harpers Ferry, "as only force and fire-arms kept slavery out a Kansas, so nothing else will overthrow it in the Southern states", the visitor adding that this was a belief "daily gaining adherents". The violence Brown used makes him a controversial figure even today. He is both memorialized as a heroic martyr and visionary, compared sometimes with Moses or Christ, and vilified as a madman and a terrorist.
John Brown was born May 9, 1800, in Torrington, Connecticut. He was the fourth of the eight children of Owen Brown (1771–1856) and Ruth Mills (1772–1808). Owen Brown's father was Capt. John Brown (1728–1776), who "died in the Revolutionary Army, at New York, Sept. 3, 1776". According to the inscription on his tombstone, "He was of the fourth generation, in regular descent, from Peter Brown, one of the Pilgrim Fathers, who landed from the Mayflower, at Plymouth, Mass, December 22, 1620." Ruth Mills was the daughter of Gideon Mills, also an officer in the Revolutionary Army.
While Brown was very young, his father moved the family for "a few years" to his home town, West Simsbury, Connecticut. In 1805, the family moved to Hudson, Ohio, where Owen Brown was a leading citizen. He opened a tannery. Hudson was a center of anti-slavery activity and debate, and Owen participated fully, offering a safe house to Underground Railroad fugitives. With no school beyond the elementary level in Hudson at that time, John studied at the school of the abolitionist Elizur Wright, father of the famous Elizur Wright, in nearby Tallmadge.
Owen was one of the founders of Hudson's school, the Western Reserve College and Preparatory School, which would soon (1832–33) become consumed with and torn apart by the issue of slavery (see Beriah Green and Lane Rebels). Owen also became a supporter of the Oberlin Institute in its early stage, but was ultimately critical of the school's "perfectionist" leanings, especially renowned in the preaching and teaching of Charles Finney and Asa Mahan. Brown withdrew his membership from the Congregational church in the 1840s and never officially joined another church, but both he and his father were fairly conventional evangelicals for the period with its focus on the pursuit of personal righteousness.
At 16, Brown left his family and came east with the design of acquiring a liberal education from a New England colleges. His ultimate design was the Gospel ministry. In pursuance of this object, he consulted and conferred with the Rev. Jeremiah Hallock, then clergyman at Canton, Connecticut, whose wife was a relative, and in accordance with advice there obtained, proceeded to Plainfield, Massachusetts, where, under the instruction of the late Rev. Moses Hallock, he prepared for college. While there pursuing his studies, he was attacked with inflammation of the eyes, which ultimately became chronic, and precluded him from the possibility of the further pursuit of his studies, whereupon he returned to Ohio. Another source reports him studying at the Morris Academy in Litchfield, Connecticut. In Hudson, he worked briefly at his father's tannery before opening a successful tannery of his own outside of town with his adopted brother.
In 1820, Brown married Dianthe Lusk. Their first child, John Jr, was born 13 months later. In 1825, seeking a safer location for fugitive slaves, Brown and his family moved to New Richmond, Pennsylvania, where he bought 200 acres (81 hectares) of land. He cleared an eighth of it and built a cabin, a barn, and a tannery, the latter with a secret room to hide escaping slaves. The John Brown Tannery Site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It "was a major stop on the [Underground] Railroad, marking its place in history from 1825 to 1835." During that period, "Brown aided in the passing of an estimated 2,500 slaves." Presumably, Brown was also helping a smaller number of fugitive slaves when he lived in the village of Hudson.
Within a year, the tannery employed 15 men. Brown made money raising cattle and surveying. He helped to establish a post office and a school; Andrew Jackson named him postmaster of Randolph, Pennsylvania.:325 During this period, Brown operated an interstate business involving cattle and leather production along with a kinsman, Seth Thompson, from easter
In 1829, some white families asked Brown to help them drive off Native Americans who hunted annually in the area. Brown replied, "I will have nothing to do with so mean an act. I would sooner take my gun and help drive you out of the country.":168–69 Throughout his life, Brown maintained peaceful relations with his Native American neighbors, even accompanying them on hunting excursions and inviting them to eat in his home.
In 1831, one of his sons died. Brown fell ill, and his businesses began to suffer, leaving him in terrible debt. In the summer of 1832, shortly after the death of a newborn son, his wife Dianthe died, either in childbirth or as an immediate consequence of it.:35 He was left with the children John Jr., Jason, Owen, and Ruth. (Another three of their children did not survive to adulthood.) On June 14, 1833, Brown married 16-year-old Mary Ann Day (1817–1884), originally from Washington County, New York. They eventually had 13 children; those alive at John Brown's death were Salmon, Annie, Sarah, and Ellen. Watson and Oliver died at Harpers Ferry (see below). "He evinced a good deal of pride in stating that he had seven sons to help him in the cause" of abolishing slavery.
In 1836, Brown moved his family to Franklin Mills, Ohio (now known as Kent). There he borrowed money to buy land in the area, building and operating a tannery along the Cuyahoga River in partnership with Zenas Kent. He suffered great financial losses in the economic crisis of 1839, which struck the Western states more severely than had the Panic of 1837. Following the heavy borrowing trends of Ohio, many businessmen like Brown trusted too heavily in credit and state bonds and paid dearly for it. In one episode of property loss, Brown was jailed when he attempted to retain ownership of a farm by occupying it against the claims of the new owner. Like other determined men of his time and background, he tried many different business efforts in an attempt to get out of debt. Along with tanning hides and cattle trading, he also undertook horse and sheep breeding, the last of which was to become a notable aspect of his pre-public vocation.
In 1837, in response to the murder of Elijah P. Lovejoy, Brown publicly vowed: "Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery!" Brown was declared bankrupt by a federal court on September 28, 1842. In 1843, four of his children died of dysentery. As Louis DeCaro Jr shows in his biographical sketch (2007), from the mid-1840s Brown had built a reputation as an expert in fine sheep and wool, and entered into a partnership with Col. Simon Perkins of Akron, Ohio, whose flocks and farms were managed by Brown and sons. Brown eventually moved into a home with his family across the street from the Perkins Stone Mansion on Perkins Hill. The John Brown House (Akron, Ohio) still stands and is owned and operated by The Summit County Historical Society of Akron, Ohio.
Transformative years in Springfield, Massachusetts
In 1846, Brown and his business partner Simon Perkins moved to the ideologically progressive city of Springfield, Massachusetts. There Brown found a community whose white leadership—from the community's most prominent churches, to its wealthiest businessmen, to its most popular politicians, to its local jurists, and even to the publisher of one of the nation's most influential newspapers—were deeply involved and emotionally invested in the anti-slavery movement. Brown's and Perkins' intent was to represent the interests of the Ohio's wool growers as opposed to those of New England's wool manufacturers—thus Brown and Perkins set up a wool commission operation. While in Springfield, Brown lived in a house at 51 Franklin Street.
Two years before Brown's arrival in Springfield, in 1844, the city's African-American abolitionists had founded the Sanford Street Free Church—now known as St. John's Congregational Church—which went on to become one of the United States' most prominent platforms for abolitionist speakers. From 1846 until he left Springfield in 1850, Brown was a parishioner at the Free Church, where he witnessed abolitionist lectures by the likes of Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. In 1847, after speaking at the Free Church, Douglass spent a night speaking with Brown, after which Douglass wrote, "From this night spent with John Brown in Springfield, Mass. [in] 1847[,] while I continued to write and speak against slavery, I became all the same less hopeful for its peaceful abolition. My utterances became more and more tinged by the color of this man's strong impressions." During Brown's time in Springfield, he became deeply involved in transforming the city into a major center of abolitionism, and one of the safest and most significant stops on the Underground Railroad.
Brown also learned much about Massachusetts' mercantile elite; while he initially considered this knowledge a curse, it proved to be a boon to his later activities in Kansas and at Harpers Ferry. The business community had reacted with hesitation when Brown asked them to change their highly profitable practice of selling low-quality wool en masse at low prices. Initially, Brown naïvely trusted them, but he soon realized they were determined to maintain their control of price-setting. Also, on the outskirts of Springfield, the Connecticut River Valley's sheep farmers were largely unorganized and hesitant to change their methods of production to meet higher standards. In the Ohio Cultivator, Brown and other wool growers complained that the Connecticut River Valley's farmers' tendencies were lowering all U.S. wool prices abroad. In reaction, Brown made a last-ditch effort to overcome the wool mercantile elite by seeking an alliance with European manufacturers. Ultimately, Brown was disappointed to learn that Europe preferred to buy Western Massachusetts wools en masse at the cheap prices they had been getting. Brown then traveled to England to seek a higher price for Springfield's wool. The trip was a disaster, as the firm incurred a loss of $40,000, of which Perkins bore the brunt. With this misfortune, the Perkins and Brown wool commission operation closed in Springfield in late 1849. Subsequent lawsuits tied up the partners for several more years.
Before Brown left Springfield in 1850, the United States passed the Fugitive Slave Act, a law mandating that authorities in free states aid in the return of escaped slaves and imposing penalties on those who aided in their escape. In response Brown founded a militant group to prevent slaves' capture, the League of Gileadites. In the Bible, Mount Gilead was the place where only the bravest of Israelites gathered to face an invading enemy. Brown founded the League with the words, "Nothing so charms the American people as personal bravery. [Blacks] would have ten times the number [of white friends than] they now have were they but half as much in earnest to secure their dearest rights as they are to ape the follies and extravagances of their white neighbors, and to indulge in idle show, in ease, and in luxury." Upon leaving Springfield in 1850, he instructed the League to act "quickly, quietly, and efficiently" to protect slaves that escaped to Springfield—words that would foreshadow Brown's later actions preceding Harpers Ferry. From Brown's founding of the League of Gileadites onward, not one person was ever taken back into slavery from Springfield. Brown gave his rocking chair to the mother of his beloved black porter, Thomas Thomas, as a gesture of affection.
Some popular narrators have exaggerated the impact of the demise of Brown and Perkins' wool commission in Springfield on Brown's later life choices. In actuality, Perkins absorbed much of the financial loss, and their partnership continued for several more years, with Brown nearly breaking even by 1854. Brown's time in Springfield sowed the seeds for the future financial support he received from New England's great merchants, introduced him to nationally famous abolitionists like Douglass and Truth, and included the foundation of the League of Gileadites. During this time, Brown also helped publicize David Walker's speech Appeal. Brown's personal attitudes evolved in Springfield, as he observed the success of the city's Underground Railroad and made his first venture into militant, anti-slavery community organizing. In speeches, he pointed to the martyrs Elijah Lovejoy and Charles Turner Torrey as whites "ready to help blacks challenge slave-catchers." In Springfield, Brown found a city that shared his own anti-slavery passions, and each seemed to educate the other. Certainly, with both successes and failures, Brown's Springfield years were a transformative period of his life that catalyzed many of his later actions.
Homestead in New York
In 1848, Brown heard of Gerrit Smith's Adirondack land grants to poor black men, called Timbuctoo, and decided to move his family there to establish a farm where he could provide guidance and assistance to the blacks who were attempting to establish farms in the area. He bought from Smith land in the town of North Elba, New York (near Lake Placid), for $1 an acre ($2/ha), and spent two years there. It has a magnificent view and has been called "the highest arable spot of land in the State, if, indeed, soil so hard and sterile can be called arable."
After he was executed, his wife took his body there for burial. Watson's body was located and buried there in 1882. In 1899 the remains of 12 of Brown's other collaborators were located and brought to North Elba. They could not be identified well enough for separate burials, so they are buried together in a single casket, with a collective plaque. Since 1895, the John Brown Farm State Historic Site has been owned by New York State and it is now a National Historic Landmark.
Actions in Kansas
After the Harpers Ferry raid, trial, and Brown's execution, Brown was linked forever to those events in Virginia, and to a lesser extent to his burial site in remote North Elba, New York. However, while alive, Brown was thought of as a Kansan. It was in Kansas that he first received national attention, approaching for some New England abolitionists the status of a cult figure. He is the subject of a controversial mural in the Kansas State Capitol. The Kansas Historical Society went on record in suggesting that John Brown be one of Kansas's two statues in the National Statuary Hall, in the U.S. Capitol.
Kansas Territory was in the midst of a state-level civil war from 1854 to 1860, referred to as the Bleeding Kansas period, between those who wanted and those who opposed slavery in the future new state of Kansas. The issue was to be decided by the voters of Kansas, but who these voters were was not clear; there was widespread voting fraud in favor of the pro-slavery forces, as a Congressional investigation confirmed.
Move to Kansas
In 1855, Brown learned from his adult sons in Kansas that their families were completely unprepared to face attack, and that pro-slavery forces there were militant. Determined to protect his family and oppose the advances of slavery supporters, Brown left for Kansas, enlisting a son-in-law and making several stops just to collect funds and weapons. As reported by the New York Tribune, Brown stopped en route to participate in an anti-slavery convention that took place in June 1855 in Albany, New York. Despite the controversy that ensued on the convention floor regarding the support of violent efforts on behalf of the free state cause, several people gave Brown financial support. As he went westward, Brown found more militant support in his home state of Ohio, particularly in the strongly anti-slavery Western Reserve section, where his boyhood home of Hudson is located.
Brown and the free-state settlers were optimistic that they could bring Kansas into the union as a slavery-free state. After the winter snows thawed in 1856, the pro-slavery activists began a campaign to seize Kansas on their own terms. Brown was particularly affected by the sacking of Lawrence on May 21, 1856, in which a sheriff-led posse destroyed two abolitionist newspapers and the Free State Hotel. Only one man, a Border Ruffian, was killed. Preston Brooks's May 22 caning of anti-slavery Senator Charles Sumner in the United States Senate also fueled Brown's anger. A pro-slavery writer, Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow, of the Squatter Sovereign, wrote that "[pro-slavery forces] are determined to repel this Northern invasion, and make Kansas a slave state; though our rivers should be covered with the blood of their victims, and the carcasses of the abolitionists should be so numerous in the territory as to breed disease and sickness, we will not be deterred from our purpose". Brown was outraged by both the violence of the pro-slavery forces and what he saw as a weak and cowardly response by the antislavery partisans and the Free State settlers, whom he described as "cowards, or worse".
The Pottawatomie massacre occurred during the night of May 24 and the morning of May 25, 1856. Using swords, Brown and a band of abolitionist settlers took from their residences and killed five "professional slave hunters and militant pro-slavery" settlers north of Pottawatomie Creek, in Franklin County, Kansas.
Speaking of the threats that were supposedly the justification for the massacre, Free State leader Charles L. Robinson stated:
When it is known that such threats were as plenty as blue-berries in June, on both sides, all over the Territory, and were regarded as of no more importance than the idle wind, this indictment will hardly justify midnight assassination of all pro-slavery men, whether making threats or not ... Had all men been killed in Kansas who indulged in such threats, there would have been none left to bury the dead.
In the two years prior to the Pottawatomie Creek massacre, there had been eight killings in Kansas Territory attributable to slavery politics, but none in the vicinity of the massacre. The massacre was the match in the powderkeg that precipitated the bloodiest period in "Bleeding Kansas" history, a three-month period of retaliatory raids and battles in which 29 people died.
Palmyra and Osawatomie
A force of Missourians, led by Captain Henry Clay Pate, captured John Jr. and Jason, destroyed the Brown family homestead, and later participated in the Sack of Lawrence. On June 2, John Brown, nine of his followers, and 20 local men successfully defended a Free State settlement at Palmyra, Kansas, against an attack by Pate (see Battle of Black Jack). Pate and 22 of his men were taken prisoner. After capture, they were taken to Brown's camp, and received all the food Brown could find. Brown forced Pate to sign a treaty, exchanging the freedom of Pate and his men for the promised release of Brown's two captured sons. Brown released Pate to Colonel Edwin Sumner, but was furious to discover that the release of his sons was delayed until September.
In August, a company of over 300 Missourians under the command of General John W. Reid crossed into Kansas and headed towards Osawatomie, intending to destroy the Free State settlements there, and then march on Topeka and Lawrence.
On the morning of August 30, 1856, they shot and killed Brown's son Frederick and his neighbor David Garrison on the outskirts of Osawatomie. Brown, outnumbered more than seven to one, arranged his 38 men behind natural defenses along the road. Firing from cover, they managed to kill at least 20 of Reid's men and wounded 40 more. Reid regrouped, ordering his men to dismount and charge into the woods. Brown's small group scattered and fled across the Marais des Cygnes River. One of Brown's men was killed during the retreat and four were captured. While Brown and his surviving men hid in the woods nearby, the Missourians plundered and burned Osawatomie. Despite his defeat, Brown's bravery and military shrewdness in the face of overwhelming odds brought him national attention and made him a hero to many Northern abolitionists.
On September 7, Brown entered Lawrence to meet with Free State leaders and help fortify against a feared assault. At least 2,700 pro-slavery Missourians were once again invading Kansas. On September 14, they skirmished near Lawrence. Brown prepared for battle, but serious violence was averted when the new governor of Kansas, John W. Geary, ordered the warring parties to disarm and disband, and offered clemency to former fighters on both sides. Brown, taking advantage of the fragile peace, left Kansas with three of his sons to raise money from supporters in the North.
The raid at Harpers Ferry
Brown's plans for a major attack on American slavery go back at least 20 years before the raid. He spent the years between 1842 and 1849 winding up his business affairs, settling his family in the Negro community at North Elba, New York, and organizing in his own mind an anti-slavery raid that would strike a significant blow against the entire slave system, running slaves off Southern plantations.
According to Karen Whitman,
Brown was doing research for his plan all during the 1840s and 1850s. While living in Springfield, from 1845 to 1849, he studied maps of the South, Underground Railroad routes, and census tracts to discover where Negroes were living. In 1849 he went to Europe on business and studied military fortifications in England, France, and Germany. ...Brown had read all the books on insurrectionary warfare that he could lay his hands on; ...he had studied Toussaint L'Ouverture's liberation of Haiti and the history of Jamaica. [See First Maroon War.] And, beginning with his conversation with Douglass in 1847, Brown purposefully solicited the support of black leaders in the planning and execution of a massive antislavery undertaking.
His daughter, Ruth Brown Thompson, described Brown's scheme thus:
Twenty years before Harper's Ferry father had solemnly pledged himself—and his family took the vow with him—to do anything and suffer everything to wipe out slavery. His [second] wife was in full accord with him.:325
His wife was interviewed on her way to Charles Town to see him for the last time and then to take his body home for burial:
She is a large and noble-looking woman, and worthy of being John Brown's wife. She says that she has always prayed to God that he might fall in battle rather than by the hands of slaveholders; but that now she does not regret his capture, for the sake of the noble words he has been permitted to utter. She says that she is the mother of thirteen children, of whom but four survive; but that she would willingly see the ruin of all her household, if it would only help the cause of freedom.
As put by Frederick Douglass, "His own statement, that he had been contemplating a bold strike for the freedom of the slaves for ten years, proves that he had resolved upon his present course long before he, or his sons, ever set foot in Kansas." According to his first biographer James Redpath, "for thirty years, he secretly cherished the idea of being the leader of a servile insurrection: the American Moses, predestined by Omnipotence to lead the servile nations in our Southern States to freedom."
Brown was careful about whom he talked to. "Captain Brown was careful to keep his plans from his men", according to Jeremiah Anderson, one of the participants in the raid.:358 He did discuss his plans at length with Frederick Douglass, trying unsuccessfully to persuade Douglass to accompany him to Harpers Ferry (which Douglass thought a suicidal mission that could not succeed):
He often stopped over night with me, when we talked over the feasibility of his plan for destroying the value of slave property, and the motive for holding slaves in the border States. That plan, as already intimated elsewhere, was to take twenty or twenty-five discreet and trustworthy men into the mountains of Virginia and Maryland, and station them in squads of five, about five miles apart, on a line of twenty-five miles; each squad to co-operate with all, and all with each. They were to have selected for them, secure and comfortable retreats in the fastnesses of the mountains, where they could easily defend themselves in case of attack. They were to subsist upon the country roundabout. They were to be well armed, but were to avoid battle or violence, unless compelled by pursuit or in self-defense. In that case, they were to make it as costly as possible to the assailing party, whether that party should be soldiers or citizens. He further proposed to have a number of stations from the line of Pennsylvania to the Canada border, where such slaves as he might, through his men, induce to run away, should be supplied with food and shelter and be forwarded from one station to another till they should reach a place of safety either in Canada or the Northern States. He proposed to add to his force in the mountains any courageous and intelligent fugitives who might be willing to remain and endure the hardships and brave the dangers of this mountain life. These, he thought, if properly selected, on account of their knowledge of the surrounding country, could be made valuable auxiliaries. The work of going into the valley of Virginia and persuading the slaves to flee to the mountains, was to be committed to the most courageous and judicious man connected with each squad.:350–351
The previous quote is from some time before the raid, perhaps 1858. Closer to the event, Douglass described his changed plan:
The taking of Harper's Ferry, of which Captain Brown had merely hinted before, was now declared as his settled purpose. ...He did not at all object to rousing the nation; it seemed to him that something startling was just what the nation needed. He had completely renounced his old plan, and thought that the capture of Harper's Ferry would serve as notice to the slaves that their friends had come, and as a trumpet to rally them to his standard. He described the place as to its means of defense, and how impossible it would be to dislodge him if once in possession.:355–356
Here is how it was put by one of Brown's daughters:
Mrs. Adams: It was father's original plan, as we used to call it, to take Harpers Ferry at the outset, to secure firearms to arm the slaves, and to strike terror into the hearts of the slave-holders; then to immediately start for the plantations, gather up the negroes and retreat to the mountains, send out armed squads from there to gather more and eventually to spread out his forces until the slaves would come to them or the slaveholders would surrender them to gain peace. He expected...that if they had intelligent white leaders that they would be prevailed on to rise and secure their freedom without revenging their wrongs and with very little bloodshed.
Brown returned to the East by November 1856, and spent the next two years in New England raising funds. Initially he returned to Springfield, where he received contributions, and also a letter of recommendation from a prominent and wealthy merchant, George Walker. Walker was the brother-in-law of Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, the secretary for the Massachusetts State Kansas Committee, who introduced Brown to several influential abolitionists in the Boston area in January 1857. Amos Adams Lawrence, a prominent Boston merchant, secretly gave a large amount of cash. William Lloyd Garrison, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Theodore Parker and George Luther Stearns, and Samuel Gridley Howe also supported Brown. A group of six wealthy abolitionists—Sanborn, Higginson, Parker, Stearns, Howe, and Gerrit Smith—agreed to offer Brown financial support for his antislavery activities; they eventually provided most of the financial backing for the raid on Harpers Ferry, and came to be known as the Secret Six or the Committee of Six. Brown often requested help from them with "no questions asked" and it remains unclear how much of Brown's scheme the Secret Six were aware of.
On January 7, 1858, the Massachusetts Committee pledged to provide 200 Sharps Rifles and ammunition, which were being stored at Tabor, Iowa. In March, Brown contracted Charles Blair of Collinsville, Connecticut for 1,000 pikes.
In the following months, Brown continued to raise funds, visiting Worcester, Springfield, New Haven, Syracuse and Boston. In Boston, he met Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. He received many pledges but little cash. In March, while in New York City, he was introduced to Hugh Forbes, an English mercenary, who had experience as a military tactician fighting with Giuseppe Garibaldi in Italy in 1848. Brown hired him as his men's drillmaster and to write their tactical handbook. They agreed to meet in Tabor that summer. Using the alias Nelson Hawkins, Brown traveled through the Northeast and then visited his family in Hudson, Ohio. On August 7, he arrived in Tabor. Forbes arrived two days later. Over several weeks, the two men put together a "Well-Matured Plan" for fighting slavery in the South. The men quarreled over many of the details. In November, their troops left for Kansas. Forbes had not received his salary and was still feuding with Brown, so he returned to the East instead of venturing into Kansas. He soon threatened to expose the plot to the government.
As the October elections saw a free-state victory, Kansas was quiet. Brown made his men return to Iowa, where he told them tidbits of his Virginia scheme. In January 1858, Brown left his men in Springdale, Iowa, and set off to visit Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York. There he discussed his plans with Douglass, and reconsidered Forbes' criticisms. Brown wrote a Provisional Constitution that would create a government for a new state in the region of his invasion. He then traveled to Peterboro, New York, and Boston to discuss matters with the Secret Six. In letters to them, he indicated that, along with recruits, he would go into the South equipped with weapons to do "Kansas work".
Brown and 12 of his followers, including his son Owen, traveled to Chatham, Ontario, where he convened on May 10 a Constitutional Convention. The convention, with several dozen delegates including his friend James Madison Bell, was put together with the help of Dr. Martin Delany. One-third of Chatham's 6,000 residents were fugitive slaves, and it was here that Brown was introduced to Harriet Tubman. The convention assembled 34 blacks and 12 whites to adopt Brown's Provisional Constitution. Brown had long used the terminology of the Subterranean Pass Way from the late 1840s, so it is possible that Delany conflated Brown's statements over the years. Regardless, Brown was elected commander-in-chief and named John Henrie Kagi his "Secretary of War". Richard Realf was named "Secretary of State". Elder Monroe, a black minister, was to act as president until another was chosen. A. M. Chapman was the acting vice president; Delany, the corresponding secretary. In 1859, "A Declaration of Liberty by the Representatives of the Slave Population of the United States of America" was written.
Although nearly all of the delegates signed the constitution, very few volunteered to join Brown's forces, although it will never be clear how many Canadian expatriates actually intended to join Brown because of a subsequent "security leak" that threw off plans for the raid, creating a hiatus in which Brown lost contact with many of the Canadian leaders. This crisis occurred when Hugh Forbes, Brown's mercenary, tried to expose the plans to Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson and others. The Secret Six feared their names would be made public. Howe and Higginson wanted no delays in Brown's progress, while Parker, Stearns, Smith and Sanborn insisted on postponement. Stearns and Smith were the major sources of funds, and their words carried more weight. To throw Forbes off the trail and invalidate his assertions, Brown returned to Kansas in June, and remained in that vicinity for six months. There he joined forces with James Montgomery, who was leading raids into Missouri.
On December 20, Brown led his own raid, in which he liberated 11 slaves, took captive two white men, and looted horses and wagons. (See Battle of the Spurs.) The Governor of Missouri announced a reward of $3,000 (equivalent to $85,367 in 2019) for his capture. On January 20, 1859, he embarked on a lengthy journey to take the liberated slaves to Detroit and then on a ferry to Canada. While passing through Chicago, Brown met with abolitionists Allan Pinkerton, John Jones, and Henry O. Wagoner who arranged and raised the fare for the passage to Detroit and purchase clothes and supplies for Brown. Jones's wife, Mary, guessed that the supplies included the suit Brown was later hanged in. On March 12, 1859, Brown met with Frederick Douglass and Detroit abolitionists George DeBaptiste, William Lambert, and others at William Webb's house in Detroit to discuss emancipation. DeBaptiste proposed that conspirators blow up some of the South's largest churches. The suggestion was opposed by Brown, who felt humanity precluded such unnecessary bloodshed.
Over the course of the next few months, he traveled again through Ohio, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts to drum up more support for the cause. On May 9, he delivered a lecture in Concord, Massachusetts, that Amos Bronson Alcott, Emerson, and Thoreau attended. Brown reconnoitered with the Secret Six. In June he paid his last visit to his family in North Elba before departing for Harpers Ferry. He stayed one night en route in Hagerstown, Maryland, at the Washington House, on West Washington Street. On June 30, 1859, the hotel had at least 25 guests, including I. Smith and Sons, Oliver Smith and Owen Smith, and Jeremiah Anderson, all from New York. From papers found in the Kennedy Farmhouse after the raid, it is known that Brown wrote to Kagi that he would sign into a hotel as I. Smith and Sons.
As he began recruiting supporters for an attack on slaveholders, Brown was joined by Harriet Tubman, "General Tubman," as he called her. Her knowledge of support networks and resources in the border states of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware was invaluable to Brown and his planners. Some abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, opposed his tactics, but Brown dreamed of fighting to create a new state for freed slaves and made preparations for military action. After he began the first battle, he believed, slaves would rise up and carry out a rebellion across the South.
Brown asked Tubman to gather former slaves then living in present-day southern Ontario who might be willing to join his fighting force, which she did. He arrived in Harpers Ferry on July 3, 1859. A few days later, under the name Isaac Smith, he rented a farmhouse in nearby Maryland. He awaited the arrival of his recruits. They never materialized in the numbers he expected. In late August he met with Douglass in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where he revealed the Harpers Ferry plan. Douglass expressed severe reservations, rebuffing Brown's pleas to join the mission. Douglass had known of Brown's plans since early 1859 and had made a number of efforts to discourage blacks from enlisting.
In late September, the 950 pikes arrived from Charles Blair. Kagi's draft plan called for a brigade of 4,500 men, but Brown had only 21 men (16 white and 5 black: three free blacks, one freed slave, and a fugitive slave). They ranged in age from 21 to 49. Twelve had been with Brown in Kansas raids. On October 16, 1859, Brown (leaving three men behind as a rear guard) led 18 men in an attack on the Harpers Ferry Armory. He had received 200 Beecher's Bibles—breechloading .52 (13.2 mm) caliber Sharps rifles—and pikes from northern abolitionist societies in preparation for the raid. The armory was a large complex of buildings that contained 100,000 muskets and rifles, which Brown planned to seize and use to arm local slaves. They would then head south, drawing off more and more slaves from plantations, and fighting only in self-defense. As Douglass and Brown's family testified, his strategy was essentially to deplete Virginia of its slaves, causing the institution to collapse in one county after another, until the movement spread into the South, wreaking havoc on the economic viability of the pro-slavery states.
Initially, the raid went well, and they met no resistance entering the town. They cut the telegraph wires and easily captured the armory, which was being defended by a single watchman. They next rounded up hostages from nearby farms, including Colonel Lewis Washington, great-grandnephew of George Washington. They also spread the news to the local slaves that their liberation was at hand. Two of the hostages' slaves also died in the raid.
Things started to go wrong when an eastbound Baltimore & Ohio train approached the town. After holding the train, Brown inexplicably allowed it to continue on its way. At the next station, where the telegraph still worked, the conductor sent a telegram to B&O headquarters in Baltimore:
Monocacy, 7.05 A. M., October 17, 1859.
Express train bound east, under my charge, was stopped this morning at Harper's Ferry by armed abolitionists. They have possession of the bridge and the arms and armory of the United States. Myself and Baggage Master have been fired at, and Hayward, the colored porter, is wounded very severely, being shot through the body, the ball entering the body below the left shoulder blade and coming out under the left side.
The railroad sent telegrams to President Buchanan and Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise.
News of the raid reached Baltimore early that morning and Washington by late morning. In the meantime, local farmers, shopkeepers, and militia pinned down the raiders in the armory by firing from the heights behind the town. Some of the local men were shot by Brown's men. At noon, a company of militia seized the bridge, blocking the only escape route. Brown then moved his prisoners and remaining raiders into the fire engine house, a small brick building at the armory's entrance. He had the doors and windows barred and loopholes cut through the brick walls. The surrounding forces barraged the engine house, and the men inside fired back with occasional fury. Brown sent his son Watson and another supporter out under a white flag, but the angry crowd shot them. Intermittent shooting then broke out, and Brown's son Oliver was wounded. His son begged his father to kill him and end his suffering, but Brown said "If you must die, die like a man." A few minutes later, Oliver was dead. The exchanges lasted throughout the day.
By the morning of October 18 the engine house, later known as John Brown's Fort, was surrounded by a company of U.S. Marines under the command of First Lieutenant Israel Greene, USMC, with Colonel Robert E. Lee of the United States Army in overall command. Army First Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart approached under a white flag and told the raiders their lives would be spared if they surrendered. Brown refused, saying, "No, I prefer to die here." Stuart then gave a signal. The Marines used sledgehammers and a makeshift battering ram to break down the engine room door. Lieutenant Israel Greene cornered Brown and struck him several times, wounding his head. In three minutes Brown and the survivors were captives.
Altogether, Brown's men killed four people and wounded nine. Ten of Brown's men were killed, including his sons Watson and Oliver. Five escaped, including his son Owen, and seven were captured along with Brown; they were quickly tried and hanged two weeks after John. Among the raiders killed were John Henry Kagi, Lewis Sheridan Leary, and Dangerfield Newby; those hanged besides Brown included John Copeland, Edwin Coppock, Aaron Stevens, and Shields Green.
Brown and the others captured were held in the office of the armory. On October 18, 1859, Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise, Virginia Senator James M. Mason, and Representative Clement Vallandigham of Ohio arrived in Harpers Ferry. Mason led the three-hour questioning session of Brown.
Although the attack had taken place on federal property, Wise wanted him tried in Virginia, and President Buchanan did not object. Murder was not a federal crime, nor was inciting a slave insurrection, and federal action would bring abolitionist protests. Brown and his men were tried in Charles Town, the nearby seat of Jefferson County, just 7 miles (11 km) west of Harpers Ferry. The trial began October 27, after a doctor pronounced the still-wounded Brown fit for trial. Brown was charged with murdering four whites and a black, inciting slaves to rebel, and treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia. A series of lawyers were assigned to him, including Lawson Botts, Thomas C. Green, Samuel Chilton, a lawyer from Washington D.C., and George Hoyt, but it was Hiram Griswold, a lawyer from Cleveland, Ohio, who concluded the defense on October 31. In his closing statement, Griswold argued that Brown could not be found guilty of treason against a state to which he owed no loyalty and of which he was not a resident, that Brown had not killed anyone himself, and that the raid's failure indicated that Brown had not conspired with slaves. Andrew Hunter, the local district attorney, presented the closing arguments for the prosecution.
On November 2, after a week-long trial and 45 minutes of deliberation, the Charles Town jury found Brown guilty on all three counts. He was sentenced to be hanged in public on December 2.
The trial attracted reporters who were able to send their articles via the new telegraph. They were reprinted in numerous papers. This is the first trial in the U.S. to be nationally reported.
November 2 to December 2, 1859
Brown publicizes his views on American slavery
Before his conviction, reporters were not allowed access to Brown, "fearing[who?] that he may put forth something calculated to influence the public mind, and to have a bad effect on the slaves." This was much to Brown's frustration, as he stated that he wanted to make a full statement of his motives and intentions through the press.:212 Once he had been convicted, the restriction was lifted, and, glad for the publicity, he talked with reporters and anyone else who wanted to see him. He wrote letters constantly, hundreds of eloquent letters, often published in newspapers,:43 and expressed regret that he could not answer every one of the hundreds more he received. His words exuded spirituality and conviction. Letters picked up by the Northern press won him more supporters in the North while infuriating many white people in the South.
Plans for a rescue
There were well-documented and specific plans to rescue Brown, as Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise wrote to President Buchanan. Throughout the weeks Brown and six of his collaborators were in the Jefferson County Jail in Charles Town, the town was filled with various types of troops and militia, hundreds and sometimes thousands of them. Among them were cadets (students) from the Virginia Military Institute, under the leadership of General Francis H. Smith and Major Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. The Courthouse was protected by cannon. Brown's trips from the jail to the courthouse and back, and especially the short trip from the jail to the gallows, were heavily guarded. Wise halted all non-military transportation on the Winchester and Potomac Railroad (from Maryland south through Harpers Ferry to Charles Town and Winchester), from the day before through the day after the execution (see Winchester and Potomac Railroad#John Brown's raid). The military orders in Charles Town for the execution day had 14 points.
However, Brown said several times that he did not want to be rescued. He refused the assistance of Silas Soule, a friend from Kansas who somehow infiltrated the Jefferson County Jail one day and offered to break him out during the night and flee northward to New York State and possibly Canada. Brown told Silas that, aged 59, he was too old to live a life on the run from the federal authorities as a fugitive. As he wrote his wife and children from jail, he believed that his "blood will do vastly more towards advancing the cause I have earnestly endeavoured to promote, than all I have done in my life before." "I am worth inconceivably more to hang than for any other purpose."
On December 1, Brown's wife arrived by train in Charles Town, where she joined him at the county jail for his last meal. She was denied permission to stay the night, prompting Brown to lose his composure and temper for the only time during the ordeal.
Victor Hugo's reaction
Victor Hugo, from exile on Guernsey, tried to obtain a pardon for John Brown: he sent an open letter that was published by the press on both sides of the Atlantic. This text, written at Hauteville-House on December 2, 1859, warned of a possible civil war:
Politically speaking, the murder of John Brown would be an uncorrectable sin. It would create in the Union a latent fissure that would in the long run dislocate it. Brown's agony might perhaps consolidate slavery in Virginia, but it would certainly shake the whole American democracy. You save your shame, but you kill your glory. Morally speaking, it seems a part of the human light would put itself out, that the very notion of justice and injustice would hide itself in darkness, on that day where one would see the assassination of Emancipation by Liberty itself. ... Let America know and ponder on this: there is something more frightening than Cain killing Abel, and that is Washington killing Spartacus.
The letter was initially published in the London News and was widely reprinted. After Brown's execution, Hugo wrote a number of additional letters about Brown and the abolitionist cause.:408–10
Abolitionists in the United States saw Hugo's writings as evidence of international support for the anti-slavery cause. The most widely publicized commentary on Brown to reach America from Europe was an 1861 pamphlet, John Brown par Victor Hugo, that included a brief biography and reprinted two letters by Hugo, including that of December 9, 1859. The pamphlet's frontispiece was an engraving of a hanged man by Hugo that became widely associated with the execution.
Death and aftermath
On the morning of December 2, 1859, Brown wrote his last comment on slavery
I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.
"Without very much bloodshed" is how he had hoped to end slavery, through the uprising that would start with Harpers Ferry; see the comment from his daughter, above. But this was vanity, self-flattery, and his project failed. Now, the volcano beneath the snow will erupt, and slavery will be ended, but with more than a little blood. It is phrased like a legal document, like a mandate ("I, John Brown, am certain that....").
He read his Bible and wrote a final letter to his wife, which included his will. At 11:00 a.m. he rode, sitting on his coffin in a furniture wagon, from the county jail through a crowd of 2,000 soldiers to a small field a few blocks away, where the gallows were. Among the soldiers in the crowd were future Confederate general Stonewall Jackson, and John Wilkes Booth (the latter borrowing a militia uniform to gain admission to the execution). The poet Walt Whitman, in Year of Meteors, described viewing the execution.
Brown was accompanied by the sheriff and his assistants, but no minister since he refused the ministrations of pro-slavery clergy, who were the only ones available. Since the region was in the grips of virtual hysteria, most Northerners, including journalists, were run out of town, and it is unlikely any anti-slavery clergyman would have been safe, even if one were to have sought to visit Brown. He elected to receive no religious services in the jail or at the scaffold. He was hanged at 11:15 a.m. and pronounced dead at 11:50 a.m.
Transportation of his body
Brown's desire, as told to the jailor in Charles Town, was that his body be burned, "the ashes urned", and his dead sons disenterred and treated likewise. However, according to the sheriff of Jefferson County, Virginia law did not allow this, and Mrs. Brown did not want it. Brown's body was placed in a wooden coffin with the noose still around his neck, and the coffin was then put on a train to take it away from Virginia to his family homestead in North Elba, New York for burial.
His body was supposed to be embalmed in Philadelphia, through which the train would pass. There were many Southern pro-slavery medical students and faculty in Philadelphia, and as a direct result, they left the city en masse on December 21, 1859, for Southern medical schools, never to return. However, because of the demonstrations expected from both sides, Philadelphia Mayor Alexander Henry "made a fake casket, covered with flowers and flags[,] which was carefully lifted from the coach and the train and sped onward in its destination.... In reality the train carrying Brown's body never actually stopped in Philadelphia, and thus violence was averted by a 'sham coffin'".
On December 14, 1859, the U.S. Senate appointed a bipartisan committee to investigate the Harpers Ferry raid and to determine whether any citizens contributed arms, ammunition or money to John Brown's men. The Democrats attempted to implicate the Republicans in the raid; the Republicans tried to disassociate themselves from Brown and his acts.
The Senate committee heard testimony from 32 witnesses, including Liam Dodson, one of the surviving abolitionists. The report, authored by chairman James Murray Mason, a pro-slavery Democrat from Virginia, was published in June 1860. It found no direct evidence of a conspiracy, but implied that the raid was a result of Republican doctrines. The two committee Republicans published a minority report, but were apparently more concerned about denying Northern culpability than clarifying the nature of Brown's efforts. Republicans such as Abraham Lincoln rejected any connection with the raid, calling Brown "insane".
The investigation was performed in a tense environment in both houses of Congress. One senator wrote to his wife that "The members on both sides are mostly armed with deadly weapons and it is said that the friends of each are armed in the galleries." After a heated exchange of insults, a Mississippian attacked Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania with a Bowie knife in the House of Representatives. Stevens' friends prevented a fight.
The Senate committee was very cautious in its questions of two of Brown's backers, Samuel Howe and George Stearns, out of fear of stoking violence. Howe and Stearns later said that the questions were asked in a manner that permitted them to give honest answers without implicating themselves. Civil War historian James M. McPherson stated that "A historian reading their testimony, however, will be convinced that they told several falsehoods."
Aftermath of the raid
In a famous speech 20 years after the war, Frederick Douglass described Brown's influence:
Did John Brown draw his sword against slavery and thereby lose his life in vain? and to this I answer ten thousand times, No! ...If John Brown did not end the war that ended slavery, he did at least begin the war that ended slavery. If we look over the dates, places and men, for which this honor is claimed, we shall find that not Carolina, but Virginia — not Fort Sumpter, but Harper's Ferry and the arsenal — not Col. Anderson, but John Brown, began the war that ended American slavery and made this a free Republic. Until this blow was struck, the prospect for freedom was dim, shadowy and uncertain. The irrepressible conflict was one of words, votes and compromises. When John Brown stretched forth his arm the sky was cleared. The time for compromises was gone — the armed hosts of freedom stood face to face over the chasm of a broken Union — and the clash of arms was at hand.:27–28
John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was the last in a series of events that led to the American Civil War. Southern slaveowners, hearing initial reports that hundreds of abolitionists were involved, were relieved the effort was so small, but feared other abolitionists would emulate Brown and attempt to lead slave rebellions.:6 Therefore, the South reorganized the decrepit militia system. These militias, well-established by 1861, became a ready-made Confederate army, making the South better prepared for war.
Southern Democrats charged that Brown's raid was an inevitable consequence of the political platform of what they invariably called "the Black Republican Party". In light of the upcoming elections in November 1860, the Republicans tried to distance themselves as much as possible from Brown, condemning the raid and dismissing its leader as an insane fanatic. As one historian explains, Brown was successful in polarizing politics: "Brown's raid succeeded brilliantly. It drove a wedge through the already tentative and fragile Opposition–Republican coalition and helped to intensify the sectional polarization that soon tore the Democratic party and the Union apart."
Many abolitionists in the North viewed Brown as a martyr, sacrificed for the sins of the nation. Immediately after the raid, Wm. Lloyd Garrison published a column in The Liberator, judging Brown's raid "well-intended but sadly misguided" and "wild and futile". But he defended Brown's character from detractors in the Northern and Southern press, and argued that those who supported the principles of the American Revolution could not consistently oppose Brown's raid. On the day Brown was hanged, Garrison reiterated the point in Boston: "whenever commenced, I cannot but wish success to all slave insurrections".
As Douglass put it in the speech just cited, "His zeal in the cause of my race was far greater than mine—it was as the burning sun to my taper light—mine was bounded by time, his stretched away to the boundless shores of eternity. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.":9
Views of contemporaries
Between 1859 and Lincoln's assassination in 1865, Brown was the most famous American, hero and icon to the North, and traitor to the South. According to Frederick Douglass, "He was with the troops during that war, he was seen in every camp fire, and our boys pressed onward to victory and freedom, timing their feet to the stately stepping of Old John Brown as his soul went marching on." Douglass called him "a brave and glorious old man. ...History has no better illustration of pure, disinterested benevolence.":254
Other Black leaders of the time—Martin Delany, Henry Highland Garnet, Harriet Tubman—also knew and respected Brown. "Tubman thought Brown was the greatest white man who ever lived," and she said later he did more for American blacks than Lincoln did.
According to W. E. B. Du Bois in his 1909 biography, "John Brown was right". Brown's raid stood as "a great white light—an unwavering, unflickering brightness, blinding by its all-seeing brilliance, making the whole world simply a light and a darkness—a right and a wrong."
Shortly after Brown's death, Victor Hugo predicted it "would open a latent fissure that will finally split the Union asunder", and many poets responded to the event. In 1863 Julia Ward Howe wrote the popular hymn the Battle Hymn of the Republic to the tune of "John Brown's body", which included a line "As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free", comparing Brown's sacrifice to that of Jesus Christ.:179
Views of historians and other writers
Writers continue to vigorously debate Brown's personality, sanity, motivations, morality, and relation to abolitionism. In his posthumous The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861 (1976), David Potter argued that the emotional effect of Brown's raid exceeded the philosophical effect of the Lincoln–Douglas debates, and reaffirmed a deep division between North and South. Malcolm X said that white people could not join his black nationalist Organization of Afro-American Unity, but "if John Brown were still alive, we might accept him".
Some writers describe Brown as a monomaniacal zealot, others as a hero. In 1931, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans erected a counter-monument, to Heyward Shepherd, a free black man who was the first fatality of the Harpers Ferry raid, claiming without evidence that he was a "representative of Negroes of the neighborhood, who would not take part". By the mid-20th century, some scholars were fairly convinced that Brown was a fanatic and killer, while some African Americans sustained a positive view of him. According to Stephen Oates, "unlike most Americans at his time, he had no racism. He treated blacks equally. ...He was a success, a tremendous success because he was a catalyst of the Civil War. He didn't cause it but he set fire to the fuse that led to the blow up." Journalist Richard Owen Boyer considered Brown "an American who gave his life that millions of other Americans might be free", and others held similarly positive views.
Several 21st-century works about Brown are notable for the absence of hostility that characterized similar works a century earlier (when Lincoln's anti-slavery views were de-emphasized).:181–89 Journalist and documentary writer Ken Chowder considers Brown "stubborn ... egoistical, self-righteous, and sometimes deceitful; yet ... at certain times, a great man" and argues that Brown has been adopted by both the left and right, and his actions "spun" to fit the world view of the spinner at various times in American history. Toledo (2002), Peterson (2002), DeCaro (2002, 2007), Reynolds (2005), and Carton (2006) are critically appreciative of Brown's history, far from the opinions of earlier writers. The shift to an appreciative perspective moves many white historians toward the view long held by black scholars such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Benjamin Quarles, and Lerone Bennett, Jr.
Once the Reconstruction era ended and the country distanced itself from the anti-slavery cause and the martial law imposed in the South, the historical view of Brown changed. In the 1880s, Brown's detractors—some of them[who?] contemporaries now embarrassed by their former fervent abolitionism—began to produce virulent exposés, emphasizing the Pottawatomie killings of 1856. Historian James Loewen surveyed American history textbooks prior to 1995 and noted that until about 1890, historians considered Brown perfectly sane, but from about 1890 until 1970, he was generally portrayed as insane. After that, new interpretations[which?] began to gain ground.:173–203
Although Oswald Garrison Villard's 1910 biography of Brown was thought to be friendly (Villard being the grandson of abolitionist Garrison), he also added fuel to the anti-Brown fire by criticizing him as a muddled, pugnacious, bumbling, and homicidal madman. Villard himself was a pacifist and admired Brown in many respects, but his interpretation of the facts provided a paradigm for later anti-Brown writers. Similarly, a 1923 textbook stated, "the farther we getaway from the excitement of 1859 the more we are disposed to consider this extraordinary man the victim of mental delusions."
In 1978, NYU historian Albert Fried concluded that historians who portrayed Brown as a dysfunctional figure are "really informing me of their predilections, their judgment of the historical event, their identification with the moderates and opposition to the 'extremists.'" This view of Brown has come to prevail in academic writing as well as in journalism. Biographer Louis DeCaro Jr. wrote in 2007, "there is no consensus of fairness with respect to Brown in either the academy or the media." More recent portrayals of Brown as another Timothy McVeigh or Osama bin Laden may still reflect the same bias Fried discussed a generation ago.
- Some historians, such as Paul Finkelman, compare Brown to contemporary terrorists such as Osama bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh, Finkelman calling him "simply part of a very violent world" and further stating that Brown "is a bad tactician, a bad strategist, he's a bad planner, he's not a very good general—but he's not crazy".
- Historian James Gilbert labels Brown a terrorist by 21st-century criteria. Gilbert writes: "Brown's deeds conform to contemporary definitions of terrorism, and his psychological predispositions are consistent with the terrorist model."
- Biographer Stephen B. Oates has described Brown as "maligned as a demented dreamer ... (but) in fact one of the most perceptive human beings of his generation".
|Presentation by Reynolds on John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights, May 12, 2005, C-SPAN|
- Biographer David S. Reynolds gives Brown credit for starting the Civil War or "killing slavery", and cautions others against identifying Brown with terrorism. Reynolds saw Brown as inspiring the Civil Rights Movement a century later, adding "it is misleading to identify Brown with modern terrorists."
- Biographer Louis A. DeCaro Jr., who has debunked many historical allegations about Brown's early life and public career, concludes that although he "was hardly the only abolitionist to equate slavery with sin, his struggle against slavery was far more personal and religious than it was for many abolitionists, just as his respect and affection for black people was far more personal and religious than it was for most enemies of slavery".
- Historian and Brown documentary scholar Louis Ruchames wrote: "Brown's action was one of great idealism and placed him in the company of the great liberators of mankind."
- Biographer Otto Scott introduced his work on Brown by writing: "In the late 1850s a new type of political assassin appeared in the United States. He did not murder the mighty—but the obscure. ... his purposes were the same as those of his classic predecessors: to force the nation into a new political pattern by creating terror."
- Lawyer Brian Harris writes: "Whatever view you take of the consequences of Harpers Ferry, and for all that it was a botched job which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of innocents, it had at least the merit of having been undertaken for the noblest of motives. The same cannot be said for the sadistic butchery that was Pottawatomie. It served no useful purpose other than to vent an old man's rage, and Brown is the smaller for it."
The connection between John Brown's life and many of the slave uprisings in the Caribbean was clear from the outset. Brown was born during the period of the Haitian Revolution, which saw Haitian slaves revolting against the French. The role the revolution played in helping to formulate Brown's abolitionist views directly is not clear; however, the revolution had an obvious effect on the general view towards slavery in the northern United States, and in the Southern states it was a warning of horror (as they viewed it) possibly to come. As W. E. B. Du Bois notes, the involvement of slaves in the American Revolutions, as well as the "upheaval in Hayti, and the new enthusiasm for human rights, led to a wave of emancipation which started in Vermont during the Revolution and swept through New England and Pennsylvania, ending finally in New York and New Jersey".:80–81 This changed sentiment, which occurred during the late 18th and early 19th century, undoubtedly had a role in creating Brown's abolitionist opinion, during his upbringing.
The 1839 slave insurrection aboard the Spanish ship La Amistad, off the coast of Cuba, provides a poignant example of John Brown's support and appeal towards Caribbean slave revolts. On La Amistad, Joseph Cinqué and approximately 50 other slaves captured the ship, slated to transport them from Havana to Puerto Príncipe, Cuba, in July 1839, and attempted to return to Africa. However, through trickery, the ship ended up in the United States, where Cinque and his men stood trial. Ultimately, the courts acquitted the men because at the time the international slave trade was illegal in the United States.:54 According to Brown's daughter, "Turner and Cinque stood first in esteem" among Brown's black heroes. Furthermore, she noted Brown's "admiration of Cinques' character and management in carrying his points with so little bloodshed!":46 In 1850, Brown would refer affectionately to the revolt, in saying "Nothing so charms the American people as personal bravery. Witness the case of Cinques, of everlasting memory, on board the Amistad.":54–55 The slave revolts of the Caribbean had a clear and important impact on Brown's views toward slavery and his staunch support of the most severe forms of abolitionism. However, this is not the most important part of the many revolts' legacy of influencing Brown.
The specific knowledge John Brown gained from the tactics employed in the Haitian Revolution, and other Caribbean revolts, was of paramount importance when Brown turned his sights to the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. As Brown's cohort Richard Realf explained to a committee of the 36th Congress, "he had posted himself in relation to the wars of Toussaint L'Ouverture; he had become thoroughly acquainted with the wars in Hayti and the islands round about.":216 By studying the slave revolts of the Caribbean region, Brown learned a great deal about how to properly conduct guerilla warfare. A key element to the prolonged success of this warfare was the establishment of maroon communities, which are essentially colonies of runaway slaves. As a contemporary article notes, Brown would use these establishments to "retreat from and evade attacks he could not overcome. He would maintain and prolong a guerilla war, of which ... Haiti afforded" an example.:106
The idea of creating maroon communities was the impetus for the creation of John Brown's "Provisional Constitution and Ordinances for the People of the United States", which helped to detail how such communities would be governed. However, the idea of maroon colonies of slaves is not an idea exclusive to the Caribbean region. In fact, maroon communities riddled the southern United States between the mid-1600s and 1864, especially in the Great Dismal Swamp region of Virginia and North Carolina. Similar to the Haitian Revolution, the Seminole Wars, fought in modern-day Florida, saw the involvement of maroon communities, which although outnumbered by native allies were more effective fighters.:106
Although the maroon colonies of North America undoubtedly had an effect on John Brown's plan, their impact paled in comparison to that of the maroon communities in places like Haiti, Jamaica, and Surinam. Accounts by Brown's friends and cohorts prove this idea. Richard Realf, a cohort of Brown in Kansas, noted that Brown not only studied the slave revolts in the Caribbean, but focused more specifically on the maroons of Jamaica and those involved in Haiti's liberation. Brown's friend Richard Hinton similarly noted that Brown knew "by heart" the occurrences in Jamaica and Haiti.:107 Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a cohort of Brown's and a member of the Secret Six, stated that Brown's plan involved getting "together bands and families of fugitive slaves" and "establish them permanently in those [mountain] fastnesses, like the Maroons of Jamaica and Surinam". Brown had planned for the maroon colonies established to be "durable", and thus able to endure over a prolonged period of war.
The similarities between John Brown's attempted insurrection and the Haitian Revolution in methods, motivations, and resolve is still seen today: the main avenue in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince is still named for Brown as a sign of solidarity.
Brown's personal religion is fairly well documented in the papers of the Reverend Clarence Gee, a Brown family expert, now held in the Hudson [Ohio] Library and Historical Society.
Many documents and pictures relating to Brown are available at Kansas Memory, a project of the Kansas Historical Society: https://www.kansasmemory.org/locate.php?categories=1182-1245-4645&query=John+Brown
Of the major figures associated with the American Civil War, Brown is the least commemorated. Places where he lived have been conserved as museums, and there are many historical markers, but he is hardly honored.
- There is only one major street in the world named for Brown, the Avenue John Brown in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. where there is also an avenue honoring abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner.
- Some small roads near museums in North Elba, New York and Guys Mills, Pennsylvania are named for him.
- There is a Harpers Ferry Streets in Davie, Florida
- In Ellwood City, Pennsylvania and Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, in Northwest Pennsylvania near the Ohio border, near the route Owen Brown took seeking refuge in his brother John Jr.'s house in northeast Ohio, there is a Harpers Ferry Road, and intersecting with it, a smaller John Brown Road.
- The Quindaro ghost town, today part of Kansas City, Kansas (27th Street and Sewell Avenue), was a major Underground Railroad station, a key port on the Missouri River for fugitive slaves and contrabands escaping from the slave state of Missouri. Site of a freedmen's school founded in 1865, the first Black school west of the Mississippi River, and then the Black Western University which succeeded it, it is the only thing remaining of the Western University campus, abandoned and overgrown since 1943, all of its buildings having been torn down. There is a pillar with a life-sized statue of Brown, erected by descendants of slaves. Lettering reads: "Erected to the Memory of John Brown by a Grateful People". There is a bronze plaque. In March, 2018, the statue was defaced with swastikas and "Hail Satan".
- In 1895, the Kansas Legislature selected Brown as one of two statues representing the state in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, a response to Virginia having chosen Robert E. Lee. It was never funded, and in 1914 he was "replaced" by a statue of George Washington Glick.
John Brown Day
Museums and sites
- Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
- John Brown Farm State Historic Site, North Elba, New York
- John Brown Farm, Tannery & Museum Guys Mills, Pennsylvania
- John Brown House (Akron, Ohio), where he lived from 1844 to 1854, is (2020) not open to the public but is being renovated by the Summit County Historical Society of Akron, Ohio
- John Brown House (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania)
- John Brown Museum, Osawatomie, Kansas
- John Brown Raid Headquarters (Kennedy Farm), Samples Manor, Maryland
- John Brown's Fort, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
In 1927, white supremacist Thomas Dixon Jr. published a screenplay entitled The Torch; A story of the paranoiac who caused a great war. It was never produced.
The two most noted screen portrayals of Brown were both given by actor Raymond Massey. The 1940 film Santa Fe Trail, starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, depicted Brown completely unsympathetically as an out-and-out villainous madman; Massey , to that impression by playing him with a constant, wild-eyed stare. The film gave the impression that it did not oppose slavery, even to the point of having a Black "mammy" character say, after an especially fierce battle, "Mr. Brown done promised us freedom, but ... if this is freedom, I don't want no part of it". Massey portrayed Brown again in the little-known, low-budget Seven Angry Men, in which he was not only the main character, but depicted in a much more restrained, sympathetic way. Massey along with Tyrone Power and Judith Anderson starred in the acclaimed 1953 dramatic reading of Stephen Vincent Benet's epic Pulitzer Prize-winning poem John Brown's Body (1928). Three actors in formal dress recited and acted in a two-hour presentation of the poem. The production toured 60 cities in 28 states.
Numerous American poets have written poems about him, including John Greenleaf Whittier, Louisa May Alcott, and Walt Whitman. The Polish poet Cyprian Kamil Norwid wrote two poems praising Brown: "John Brown" and the better known "Do obywatela Johna Brown" ("To Citizen John Brown"). Marching Song (1932) is an unpublished play about the legend of John Brown by Orson Welles.:222–26 Russell Banks's 1998 biographical novel about Brown, Cloudsplitter, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. It is narrated by Brown's surviving son Owen. James McBride's 2013 novel The Good Lord Bird tells Brown's story through the eyes of a young slave, Henry Shackleford, who accompanies Brown to Harpers Ferry. The novel won the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction. A limited episode series based on the book was released starring Ethan Hawke as John Brown.
- The best-known image of Brown in the later 19th century is a Currier and Ives print, based on a lost painting by Louis Ransom. It portrays Brown as a Christ-like figure. The "Virgin and Child" typically depicted with Christ are here a black mother and mulatto child (see Children of the plantation). Legend says that Brown kissed the mythical baby. (Virtually all scholars agree that this did not in fact take place.:50) Above Brown's head, like a halo, the flag of Virginia and its motto, Sic semper tyrannis ("Thus always to tyrants"); according to Brown's supporters, the government of Virginia was tyrannical.
- In 1938, Kansas painter John Steuart Curry was commissioned to prepare murals for the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka, Kansas. He chose as his subject the Kansan John Brown, seen by many as the most important man in Kansas history. In the resulting mural, Tragic Prelude, Brown holds a Bible in one hand and a "Beecher's Bible" (rifle) in the other. Behind him are Union and Confederate troops, with dead soldiers; a reference to the Bleeding Kansas period, which Brown was at the center of, and which was commonly seen to have been a dress rehearsal, a "tragic prelude", to the increasingly inevitable Civil War. Brown's last words before his execution were that he had concluded that violence was unfortunately necessary, and desirable, since there were no other means to end slavery.
- In 1941, Jacob Lawrence illustrated Brown's life in The Legend of John Brown, a series of 22 gouache paintings. By 1977, these were in such fragile condition that they could not be displayed, and the Detroit Institute of Arts had to commission Lawrence to recreate the series as silkscreen prints. The result was a limited-edition portfolio of 22 hand-screened prints, published with a poem, John Brown, by Robert Hayden, commissioned specifically for the project. Though Brown had been a popular topic for many painters, The Legend of John Brown was the first series to explore his legacy from an African-American perspective. Paintings such as Hovenden's The Last Moments of John Brown immortalize an apocryphal story in which a Black woman offers the condemned Brown her baby to kiss on his way to the gallows. It was probably a tale invented by journalist James Redpath.
- In Akron, Ohio, there is a John Brown Memorial, near the John Brown House, in the Perkins Park area of Akron Zoo - 500 Edgewood Ave, Akron, Ohio. It was not erected within the zoo; the zoo incorporated the land where it is. It is not well marked. N 41° 04.665 W 081° 32.556.
- At the John Brown Farm State Historic Site near Lake Placid, New York, on John Brown Road, is a larger-than-life statue of Brown escorting a black child to freedom. The artist was Joseph Pollia. Brown's tombstone is enclosed in glass. The bodies of some of the others who died with him were reburied there.
- The cabin he lived in while in Kansas is the John Brown Museum, also known as the John Brown Museum State Historic Site and John Brown Cabin. It is in Osawatomie, Kansas, in the John Brown Memorial Park. There is also a bronze statue of Brown, with a plaque.
- The wagon that carried Brown from jail to his execution is preserved by the Jefferson County, West Virginia Museum in Charles Town.
- An approximate replica of the firehouse was built in 2012 at the Discovery Park of America museum park in Union City, Tennessee. There is a marker explaining the link with John Brown's raid.
- Iowa has set up the John Brown Freedom Trail, marking his journey across Iowa leaving Kansas, en route to Chatham, Ontario.
- Lewis, Iowa: "Fighting Slavery – Aiding Runaways. John Brown Freedom Trail – December 20, 1858 – March 12, 1859."
- In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Avenue John Brown is a main street.
- According to the Historical Marker Database (http://hmdb.org), Brown is mentioned on the following historical markers:
- At his birthplace in Torrington, Connecticut, on John Brown Road.
- Baldwin City, Kansas: "Battle of Black Jack"
- Franklin County, Kansas: At the site of the Pottawatomie massacre.
- Lawrence, Kansas: "John Brown and the Siege of Lawrence, September 14–15, 1856"
- Near Netawaka, Kansas: Battle of the Spurs
- Osawatomie, Kansas:
- At the site of the Battle of Osawatomie, in John Brown Memorial Park.
- "Soldiers' Monument". Commenorating the 5 persons killed, including one of Brown's sons. "This inscription is also in commemoration of the heroism of Capt. John Brown who commanded at the Battle of Osawatomie August 30, 1856; who died and conquered American slavery on the scaffold at Charlestown Va. Dec. 2, 1859."
- "John Brown Country"
- 1935 plaque by The Woman's Relief Corps, Department of Kansas
- Old Stone Church Marker. "Built by Rev. Samuel Adair brother-in-law of John Brown" (1861).
- Topeka, Kansas: "Capital of Kansas" ("In the late 1850s negroes bound north on the 'underground railway' were hidden here by John Brown.")
- Near Trading Post, Kansas:
- "Marais des Cygnes Massacre" – site of a "fort" built by Brown after the massacre
- "Murder on the Marais des Cygnes"
- Hagerstown, Maryland: at the site of the Washington House Hotel, where Brown stayed on his way to Harpers Ferry.
- Hyattsville, Maryland: Osborne Perry Anderson, who fought with Brown.
- Sharpsburg, Maryland: at the site of the Kennedy Farm.
- Marlborough, Massachusetts: at the John Brown Bell, once in Harpers Ferry, since 1892 on display in Marlborough. The second-most-famous American bell, after the Liberty Bell.
- Detroit, Michigan: at the house of William Webb, site of the "Frederick Douglass – John Brown meeting".
- Hudson, Ohio:
- At his boyhood home.
- First Congregational Church in Hudson: "At a November 1837 prayer meeting, church member and anti-slavery leader John Brown made his first public vow to destroy slavery." Another marker mentions Brown at the former site of the church.
- Chambersburg, Pennsylvania: "Abolitionist John Brown Boards in Chambersburg"
- In rural Crawford County, Pennsylvania, there is a John Brown Road, and on it two historical markers at the site of Brown's house and tannery.
- Indiana, Pennsylvania: marker for Absalom (Albert) Hazlett, a member of Brown's party who was also hanged at Charles Town (in 1860)
- King of Prussia, Pennsylvania (Valley Forge National Historic Park): "Knox's Quarters – John Brown Farm".
- Kent, Ohio: marker for Underground Railroad stops mentions John Brown's residence in Kent (then called Franklin Mills) during the 1830s.
- Mont Alto, Pennsylvania: "John Brown Raid", where John Cooke, one of Brown's followers, was captured. (Two markers.)
- Near Amissville, Virginia: Dangerfield Newby marker.
- Winchester, Virginia: "A 'Malicious Design' – Burning the Winchester Medical College". The body of John Brown's son Watson was brought there for dissection by medical students.
- Charles Town, West Virginia:
- "Jefferson County Courthouse – Where John Brown Was Tried"
- "Two Treason Trials". (The other had nothing to do with Brown.)
- "Hanging Site of John Brown. Creation of a Martyr. Prelude to War."
- "John Brown Scaffold"
- "Site of the execution of John Brown"
- "Edge Hill Cemetery – John Brown Raid Victims"
- Beallair, home of Colonel Lewis Washington, held hostage by Brown.
- Focus of Action – Jefferson County in the Civil War
- Harpers Ferry, West Virginia:
- "Pilgrimage." Marks the site of an 1896 visit by the National League of Colored Women.
- "Holy Ground". Marks 1906 visit by members of the Niagara Movement, predecessor of the NAACP, on what they called John Brown Day, August 17.
- "John Brown", plaque erected in 1918 by the alumni of Storer College.
- "John Brown", plaque erected in 1932 by the NAACP.
- "John Brown Fort."
- "A Nation's Armory"
- "Arsenal Square"
- "'for the deposit of arms'"
- "John Brown Monument", on the site of the original location of "John Brown's Fort"
- "John Brown's Last Stand", at the same location.
- "Allstadt House – John Brown's Hostages – Prelude to War"
- "The John Brown Raiders", all those who participated in the raid.
- "In Honor of Private Luke Quinn" – killed during the capture of John Brown
- "The Murphy Farm", location of John Brown's Fort between 1895 and 1910.
- "Hayward Shepard – Another Perspective"
- "Heyward Shepherd"
- Chatham, Ontario: "John Brown's Convention 1858".
- Bibliography of the American Civil War
- Bleeding Kansas
- John Brown's Body (song)
- John Brown's Fort
- John Brown's last speech
- John Brown's Provisional Constitution
- John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry
- John Brown's raiders
- List of incidents of civil unrest in the United States
- Origins of the American Civil War
- Radical Republicans
- Virginia v. John Brown
- Smith, Narcissa Macy (September 1895). "Reminiscences of John Brown". The Midland Monthly. 4 (3): 231–236.
- Loewen, James W. (2008). Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (Revised and updated ed.). New York: The New Press. ISBN 978-1595583260.
- "The Harper's Ferry Outbreak". New York Daily Herald. Reprinted in The Liberator, October 28, 1859. October 21, 1859. p. 1 – via newspapers.com.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Mason, James M.; Collamer, Jacob (June 15, 1860). Report [of] the Select committee of the Senate appointed to inquire into the late invasion and seizure of the public property at Harper's Ferry. p. 149.
- "John Brown's Son". Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois). October 19, 1882. p. 6 – via newspapers.com.
- "John Brown's Son Watson". Cincinnati Commercial. October 23, 1882. p. 7 – via newspaperarchive.com.
- "Watson Brown's Remains". Indianapolis Journal. October 18, 1882 – via newspaperarchive.com.
- Thompson, George (May 6, 1865). "Letter to the editor". National Anti-Slavery Standard. p. 2.
- Anderson, Osborne Perry (1861). A Voice from Harper's Ferry. A Narrative of Events at Harper's Ferry; with incidents prior and subsequent to its capture by John Brown and his men>. Boston: Published by the author. pp. 5–7.
- "Watson Brown's Remains". Indianapolis Journal. October 18, 1882. p. 2 – via newspaperarchive.com.
- Ken Chowder. "The Father of American Terrorism Archived November 7, 2018, at the Wayback Machine". American Heritage. February/March 2000.
- Torrington Historical Society (2017). "John Brown Birthplace Site". Retrieved November 15, 2018.
- "John Brown's early history—Almost A D. D. [sic]". The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts). November 25, 1859. p. 1 – via newspapers.com.
- "Capt John Brown III". findagrave.com. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
- Ulysses S Grant, Memoirs and Selected Letters, (The Library of America, 1990) ISBN 978-0-940450-58-5
- John Brown profile Archived December 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, pabook.libraries.psu.edu; accessed August 29, 2015.
- National Park Service (2018). "John Brown". Retrieved December 19, 2018.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
- "John Brown Farm, Tannery & Museum". visitPA.com (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development). Retrieved December 18, 2018.
- Chapin, Lou V. (1899). "The Last Days of Old John Brown". Overland Monthly. Second series, 33: 322–332.
- Reynolds, David S. (2005). John Brown, Abolitionist. The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights. Vintage Books. ISBN 0375726152.
- "John Brown's Body". Retrieved April 2, 2020.
- DeCaro, Louis (2002). "Fire from the Midst of You": A Religious Life of John Brown. New York: NYU Press. ISBN 978-0814719220. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
- Redpath, James (1860). The Public Life of Captain John Brown. Boston: Thayer and Eldridge.
- Blackmar, Frank Wilson (1912). Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc. Standard Publishing Company. p. 244.
- Weber, Sandra (February 2005). "John Brown's Family: A Living Legacy". Civil War Times. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
- "Old-Time Kansas Anecdotes. No. viii—Old John Brown's Son". Kansas Tribune (Lawrence, Kansas). January 4, 1872. p. 2 – via newspapers.com.
- Caccamo, James F. (2007). "John Brown: A Brief Chronology". Historical Archives. Hudson Library & Historical Society. Archived from the original on October 20, 2007. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
- "Biography of John Brown". War and Reconciliation: The Mid-Missouri Civil War Project. University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. Archived from the original on December 20, 2016. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
- Cowan, Wes (December 6, 2007). "Cowan's Auctions". Archived from the original on November 30, 2010. Retrieved December 5, 2010.
- Joseph Carvalho III. "Abolitionist John Brown's years in Springfield Ma. transform his anti-slavery thoughts and actions". MassLive.com. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
- Franklin Sanborn. "John Brown in Massachusetts Archived April 9, 2017, at the Wayback Machine". The Atlantic Monthly. April 1872. Retrieved on October 16, 2012.
- "Resisting Slavery: St. John's Congregational Church". Springfield, MA – Our Plural History. Archived from the original on September 7, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
- "History | St. John's Congregational Church | Springfield, MA". Sjkb.org. June 22, 2010. Archived from the original on April 26, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
- "John Brown: In His Own Words – Prelude". Zikibay.com. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
- "Abolitionism". GHS IB History of the Americas. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
- Reynolds, 2005, p. 124
- "John Brown's Farm". New York History Net. 2008. Archived from the original on October 20, 2018. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
- Donaldson, Alfred Lee (1921). "John Brown at North Elba". A History of the Adirondacks. 2. New York: Century. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
- "The Burial of John Brown". The Liberator. December 16, 1859. p. 3 – via newspapers.com.
- Finkleman, Paul (1995). "Preface". In Finkleman, Paul (ed.). His Soul Goes Marching On. Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid. Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia. pp. 3–9, at 5. ISBN 0813915368.
- Morehouse, Geo. P. (August 31, 1910). "John Brown and the Hall of Fame (Letter to the Editor)". Topeka Daily Capital (Topeka, Kansas). p. 4.
- U. S. House of Representatives, 34th Congress, 1st Session (1856). Report of the Special Committee appointed to investigate the troubles in Kansas ; with the views of the minority of said Committee. Washington, D.C. Archived from the original on August 11, 2011. Retrieved June 18, 2014.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Rhodes, James Fork (1892). History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850. Original from Harvard University: Harper & Brothers. p. 385.
- Reynolds, 2005, p. 162
- Reynolds, 2005, pp. 163–64
- Huyett, Ian (February 18, 2014). "A Libertarian Defense of John Brown". Libertarian Republic. Archived from the original on March 24, 2016. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
- Robinson, Charles. The Kansas Conflict. 1892. Reprint. Lawrence, Kans.: Journal Publishing Co., 1898.
- Watts, Dale E. (Summer 1995). "How Bloody Was Bleeding Kansas? Political Killings in Kansas Territory, 1854–1861" (PDF). Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains. 18 (2): 116–129. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 19, 2017.
- Reynolds, 2005, pp. 180–81, 186
- Reynolds, 2005, p. 199
- Reynolds, 2005, pp. 200–01
- Reynolds, 2005, pp. 201–02
- Reynolds, 2005, pp. 203–04
- Whitman, Karen (October 1972). "Re-evaluating John Brown's Raid at Harpers Ferry". West Virginia History. 34 (1): 46–84.
- "(Untitled)". Western Home Journal (Lawrence, Kansas). November 17, 1859. p. 2.
- Douglass, Frederick (November 1859). "Capt. John Brown Not Insane". Douglass' Monthly. 2 (6): 1.
- "Old Brown's Work in Kansas". New York Daily Herald. October 23, 1859. p. 1 – via newspapers.com.
- Douglass, Frederick (1882). Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, written by himself. Hartford, Connecticut: Park Publishing Co.
- Coppock, J.L. (October 1895). "John Brown and his cause". The Midland Monthly. 4 (4): 317–325, at 320–321.
- Sanborn, F. B. (1878). Memoirs of John Brown, written for Rev. Samuel Orcutt's "History of Torrington, Ct.". Concord, Massachusetts.
- Jason Emerson Archived April 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine "The Secret Six," American Heritage, Fall 2009.
- Jones, Louis Thomas (1914). The Quakers of Iowa. Iowa City: The State Historical Society of Iowa. p. 193:
"A little over a year after his first visit to the Springdale neighborhood, Brown reappeared late in December, 1857—this time with some ten companions and for purposes which he seemed not anxious to have known. The men were lodged with a Quaker, William Maxon, about three miles northeast of the village of Springdale, Brown agreeing to give in exchange for their keep such of his teams or wagons as might seem just and fair. Brown himself was taken into the home of John H. Painter, about a half-mile away; and all were welcomed with that unfeigned hospitality for which the Friends have always been known."
- Morel, Lucas E. "In Pursuit of Freedom Archived October 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine." Teachinghistory.org Archived November 28, 2017, at the Wayback Machine; retrieved June 30, 2011.
- "John Brown's Convention 1858". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
- "Chatham Convention Delegates". www.wvculture.org. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
- The History of Johnson County, Iowa, 1883, pp. 475–77
- Junger, Richard, "Thinking Men and Women who Desire to Improve our Condition": Henry O. Wagoner, Civil Rights, and Black Economic Opportunity in Frontier Chicago and Denver, 1846–1887. in Alexander, William H., Cassandra L. Newby-Alexander, and Charles H. Ford, eds. Voices from within the Veil: African Americans and the Experience of Democracy. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009. p. 154
- Underground Railroad, US Department of Interior, National Park Service, Denver Service Center. Duane Publishing, Feb 1, 1995, p. 168
- Toledo, Gregory. The Hanging of Old Brown: A Story of Slaves, Statesmen, and Redemption. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002. p. 75
- John Brown in Washington County Archived July 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, whilbr.org; accessed August 29, 2015.
- Clinton, p. 129.
- Clinton, pp. 126–28.
- Larson, p. 159.
- John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid Archived January 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, wvculture.org; accessed August 29, 2015.
- Correspondence relating to the Insurrection at Harper's Ferry, 17th October, 1859. Annapolis, Maryland: Senate of Maryland. 1860. p. 5.
- Hoffman, Colonel Jon T., USMC: A Complete History, Marine Corps Association, Quantico, VA, (2002), p. 84.
- "John Brown: The Conspirators". virginia.edu. Archived from the original on November 1, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
- Meyer, Eugene L. "Five black men raided Harpers Ferry with John Brown. They've been forgotten". Washington Post. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
- Finkleman, Paul (1995). "Manufacturing Martyrdom: The Antislavery Response to John Brown's Raid". In Finkleman, Paul (ed.). His Soul Goes Marching On. Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid. Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia. pp. 41–66. ISBN 0813915368.
- "The following orders were issued last night". Daily Exchange (Baltimore, Maryland). December 3, 1859. p. 2 – via newspapers.com.
- Brown, John (December 10, 1859) [November 8, 1859]. "Brown's letter to his wife". United States Police Gazette. 2 (82). p. 2.
- Bradford, Gemaliel (November 1922). "John Brown". The Atlantic Monthly. 130 (5). pp. 646–656.
- Drescher, Seymour (1995). "Servile Insurrection and John Brown's Body in Europe". In Finkleman, Paul (ed.). His Soul Goes Marching On. Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid. Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia. pp. 253–295, at 254. ISBN 0813915368.
- Territorial Kansas Online: John Brown (1800–1859) Archived November 2, 2018, at the Wayback Machine, territorialkansasonline.org; accessed August 29, 2015.
- Evan Carton, Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America (2006), pp. 332–33.
- Walt Whitman Archive: "Year of Meteors"; accessed October 19, 2020.
- "The Execution of Brown". Daily Exchange (Baltimore, Maryland). December 3, 1859. p. 2 – via newspapers.com.
- "Brown's Last Conversation". The New York Times. December 5, 1859. p. 8.
- "The Remains of John Brown. Their Passage through Philadelphia". The New York Times. December 5, 1859. p. 8.
- "'John Brown's Body', 1859: Philadelphia's Medical Schools['] Rebellion Against Its Presence in the City". Historical Society of Pennsylvania. July 18, 2011. Archived from the original on November 13, 2018. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
- "John Brown's body in Philadelphia". United States Police Gazette. 2 (82). December 10, 1859. p. 2.
- David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pp. 378–79
- "Senate Select Committee Report on the Harper's Ferry Invasion". West Virginia Division of Culture and History. June 15, 1860. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
- David Donald, Lincoln (1995) p. 239
- Oates (1984), p. 359
- Oates (1984), pp. 359–60
- James M. McPherson. Battle Cry of Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press (1988), p. 207.
- Douglass, Frederick (1881). John Brown. An Address at the Fourteenth Anniversary of Storer College, May 30, 1881. Also available at Project Gutenbetg. Dover, New Hampshire.
- David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pp. 356–84.
- Daniel W. Crofts, Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis (1989), pp. 70 ff
- "The Tragedy at Harper's Ferry". The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts). Also available here. October 28, 1859. p. 2 – via newspapers.com.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Garrison, Wm. Lloyd (December 16, 1859). "Speech of Wm. Lloyd Garrison, At the Meeting in Tremont Temple, Deo. 2d, relating to the Execution of John Brown". The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts). p. 2 – via newspapers.com.
- "John Brown". Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York). January 27, 1874. p. 4 – via newspapers.com.
- Bordewich, Fergus M. (October 2009). "John Brown's Day of Reckoning". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
- Venet, Wendy Hamand (1995). "'Cry Aloud and Spare Not': Northern Antislavery Women and John Brown's Raid". In Finkleman, Paul (ed.). His Soul Goes Marching On. Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid. Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia. pp. 98–115, at p. 98. ISBN 0813915368.
- Crothers, A. Glenn (Fall 2011). "'To Bear our Righteous Testimonies against All Evil': Virginia Quakers' Response to John Brown". Quaker History. 100 (2): 1–16, at p. 1. doi:10.1353/qkh.2011.0011. JSTOR 41947713. S2CID 161273093.
- Massaquoi, Hans J. (1964). Mystery of Malcolm X. Ebony. p. 40. Retrieved February 23, 2010.
- "An "Ever Present Bone of Contention": The Heyward Shepherd Memorial". www.wvculture.org. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- Louis A. DeCaro Jr., "Black People's Ally, White People's Bogeyman: A John Brown Story" in Andrew Taylor and Eldrid Herrington (editors), The Afterlife of John Brown (New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2005), pp. 11–26.
- Oates, Stephen, Dr. Stephen B. Oates on John Brown, National Park Service, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, archived from the original on May 10, 2009
- Blake, Russell (December 2006). "Review of Peterson, Merrill D., John Brown: The Legend Revisite". H-CivWar, H-Net Reviews. Archived from the original on January 13, 2017.
- Timothy Patrick McCarthy; John Stauffer (2012). Prophets Of Protest: Reconsidering The History Of American Abolitionism. New Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-1595588548.
- See also: Connie A. Miller, Sr. (2008). Frederick Douglass American Hero: and International Icon of The Nineteenth Century. Xlibris. p. 166. ISBN 978-1441576491. and Lori McManus (2011). Key People of the Civil War. Capstone PressInc. p. 15. ISBN 978-1432939199.
- Ehrenreich, Barbara (April 17, 2005). "'John Brown, Abolitionist': A Soldier in the Army of the Lord". The New York Times. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
- Quarles, Benjamin, ed. (1972). Blacks on John Brown. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.
- Frederick J. Blue in American Historical Review (April 2006) v. 111, pp. 481–82.
- Bassett, John Spencer (1923). A Short History of the United States. Macmillan. p. 502.
- Albert Fried, John Brown's Journey: Notes & Reflections on His America & Mine (Garden City, NY: Anchor/Doubleday, 1978), p. 272.
- Louis A. DeCaro Jr., John Brown – The Cost of Freedom: Selections from His Life & Letters (New York: International Publishers, 2007), pp. 16–17,
- Finkelman, Paul (Spring 2011). "John Brown: America's First Terrorist?". Prologue. 43 (1): 16–27. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- R. Blakeslee Gilpin (2011). John Brown Still Lives!: America's Long Reckoning With Violence, Equality, & Change. U. of North Carolina Press. p. 198. ISBN 978-0807869277. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
- Teresa S. Moyer; Paul A. Shackel (2008). The Making of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park: A Devil, Two Rivers, and a Dream. Rowman Altamira. p. 101. ISBN 978-0759110663. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
- James N. Gilbert, "A Behavioral Analysis of John Brown: Martyr or Terrorist?" Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown, edited by Peggy A. Russo and Paul Finkelman (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2005), p. 112.
- "Text Transcript: Dr. Stephen B. Oates on John Brown". National Park Service. Archived from the original on April 26, 2007.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
- David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights (2005).
- Reynolds, (2005); for historiography see Merrill D. Peterson, John Brown: The Legend Revisited (2002) and review by Aimee Lee Cheek, Journal of Southern History 70:2 (2004) pp. 435–36.
- Louis A. DeCaro Jr., "Fire from the Midst of You": A Religious Life of John Brown (New York: NYU Press, 2002), p. 6
- Louis Ruchames, A John Brown Reader (New York: Abelard & Schuman, 1959), p. 12
- Otto Scott, The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement (Murphys, Calif.: Uncommon Books, 1979, 1983), p. 3
- Brian Harris. Intolerance: Divided Societies on Trial, Wildy, Simmonds & Hill, 2008.
- Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt (1909). John Brown. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Company.
- Clavin, Matthew (June 2008). "A second Haitian revolution: John Brown, Toussaint Louverture, and the making of the American Civil War". Civil War History. 54 (2): 117–145. doi:10.1353/cwh.0.0001 – via Gale Academic Onefile.
- Realf, Richard (1860). Report of the Select Committee of the Senate Appointed to Inquire in the Late Invasion and Seizure of the Public Property at Harper's Ferry. Washington D.C. p. 96.
- Meyer, Howard N. (2000). The Magnificent Activist: The Writings of Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823–1911). New York: Da Capo Press. p. 119.
- Flounders, Sara. "Cuba, Haiti and John Brown – To Rebel Is Justified". Archived from the original on November 4, 2011. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
- Kansas City Star Editorial Board (March 19, 2018). "Vandals may have defaced John Brown statue, but they can't scar Quindaro's significance". Kansas City Star. Archived from the original on November 15, 2018. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
- Rathke, Lisa (October 7, 2017). "John Brown Day to honor violent abolitionists legacy". LNP Always Lancaster (Lancaster, Pennsylvania). p. 9 – via newspapers.com.
- Rathke, Lisa (October 8, 2017). "John Brown Day will honor controversial abolitionist in Vt". Pensacola News Journal (Pensacola, Florida). p. 5 – via newspapers.com.
- "Celebrating Juneteenth and Timbuctoo". Parks & Trails New York. June 6, 2016.
- Andrew Taylor; Eldrid Herrington (2005). The Afterlife of John Brown. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-1403978462. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
- William T. Leonard (1986). Once Was Enough. Scarecrow Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0810819092.
- McGinty, Brian. p. 289
- Kliger, George; Albrecht, Robert C. (1963). "A Polish poet on John Brown". The Polish Review. 8 (3): 80–85. JSTOR 25776494.
- McGilligan, Patrick (2015). Young Orson. New York: Harper. ISBN 978-0-06-211248-4.
- Banks, Russell. Cloudsplitter. New York: Harper Flamingo, 1998.
- Minzesheimer, Bob (November 21, 2013). "James McBride wins National Book Award for fiction". USA Today. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- Garth Franklin (August 3, 2019). "Diggs, Russell Join Hawke's "Good Lord Bird"". darkhorizons.com. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
- Truel, Matt (July 29, 1994). "At Museum Of History – Exhibit Of Art by Curry Examines Controversy". Council Grove Republican (Council Grove, Kansas). p. 6. Archived from the original on September 1, 2020. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
- Andrew Taylor; and Eldrid Herrington (2005). The Afterlife of John Brown. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 127–28.
- Furnas, J. C. The Road to Harpers Ferry. p. 45
- "Monuments Mark the Sites". Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio). September 8, 1997. p. 6 – via newspapers.com.
- O'Connor, Bill (September 8, 1997). "Monuments are more than tributes to past". Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio). p. 6 – via newspapers.com.
- "John Brown Memorial - Akron, Ohio". waymarking.com. 2011. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
- Coughlin, Bill (2011). "Focus of Action – Jefferson County in the Civil War". Historical Markers Database. Archived from the original on November 21, 2018. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
- "Fire Station House at Discovery Park Of America". Dreamstime. 2013. Archived from the original on November 21, 2018. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
- Caudle, Glenda (March 29, 2013). "DPA firehouse based on historical building" (PDF). Union City Daily Messenger. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 21, 2018. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
- Hughes, Sandra (2017). "The Firehouse". Historical Markers Database. Archived from the original on November 21, 2018. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
- Iowa Department of Historical Affairs and State Historical Society of Iowa. "Iowa and the Underground Railroad" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on November 19, 2018. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
- Hudson Quester chapters (1985), Boyhood home of John Brown, Historical Marker Database
- Featherstonhaugh, Thomas (1897). "A Bibliography of John Brown". Publications of the Southern History Association. 1: 196–202.
- Featherstonhaugh, Thomas (1899). "Bibliography of John Brown Part Ii". Publications of the Southern History Association. 3: 302–306.
- John Brown letters and photos on Kansas Memory, the digital portal of the Kansas State Historical Society
- DeCaro, Louis A. Jr., ed. John Brown Speaks: Letters and Statements from Charlestown. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
- Louis Ruchames, ed. A John Brown Reader: The Story of John Brown in His Own Words, in the Words of Those who Knew Him (1959)
- Franklin Sanborn (ed.) (1891): The Life and Letters of John Brown
- DeCaro, Louis A. Jr. John Brown – The Cost of Freedom: Selections from His Life & Letters (New York: International Publishers, 2007)
- Henry David Thoreau (1859): A Plea for Captain John Brown
- Andrew Johnson (1859): What John Brown Did in Kansas (December 12, 1859): a speech to the United States House of Representatives, December 12, 1859. Originally published in The Congressional Globe, The Official Proceedings of Congress, Published by John C. Rives, Washington, D. C. Thirty-Sixth Congress, 1st Session, New Series ... No. 7, Tuesday, December 13, 1859, pp. 105–06. Retrieved May 16, 2005.
- Barney, William L. "Brown, John". The Civil War and Reconstruction: A Student Companion. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2001.
- DeCaro, Louis A. Jr. "Fire from the Midst of You": A Religious Life of John Brown (2002)
- DeCaro, Louis A. Jr. Freedom's Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
- De Witt, Robert M. (1859). The Life, Trial and Execution of Captain John Brown, Known as "Old Brown of Ossawatomie," with a full account of the attempted insurrection at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Compiled from official and authentic sources. Inducting Cooke's Confession, and all the Incidents of the Execution. New York: Robert M. De Witt.
- Du Bois, W. E. B. (1909) John Brown (ISBN 0-679-78353-9)
- Du Bois, W. E. B. (1997). John Brown. A new edition with primary documents and introduction by John David Smith. Routledge. ISBN 978-1563249723.
- Finkelman, Paul, ed. His Soul Goes Marching On: Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid (1995)
- Furnas, J. C. The Road to Harpers Ferry. New York, William Sloane Associates, 1959
- Goodrich, Thomas War to the Knife: Bleeding Kansas, 1854–1861 (1998).
- Hinton, Richard Josiah (1894). John Brown and his men; with some account of the roads they traveled to reach Harper's Ferry. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
- Horwitz, Tony. Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2011.
- Hotchkiss, Jed. "John Brown's Raid." The Confederate Military History. Oct. 27, 2009. John Brown's Raid
- Laughlin-Schultz, Bonnie. The Tie that Bound Us: The Women of John Brown's Family and the Legacy of Radical Abolitionism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013.
- Long, Roderick (2008). "Brown, John (1800–1859)". In Hamowy, Ronald (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage; Cato Institute. pp. 39–40. doi:10.4135/9781412965811.n26. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4. LCCN 2008009151. OCLC 750831024.
- Malin, James. John Brown & the Legend of Fifty-Six (1942) (ISBN 0-8383-1021-4)
- McGinty, Brian (2009). John Brown's Trial. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-03517-1.
- McGlone, Robert E. John Brown's War against Slavery. Cambridge, CUP, 2009.
- Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union. 2 vols. (1947)
- Nichols, Roy F. "The Kansas-Nebraska Act: A Century of Historiography." Mississippi Valley Historical Review 43 (September 1956): 187–212. in JSTOR
- Nudelman, Franny, John Brown's Body: Slavery, Violence, and the Culture of War (2004).
- Oates, Stephen B. To Purge This Land With Blood: A Biography of John Brown (1970).
- Oates, Stephen B. Our Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, and the Civil War Era (1979)
- Peterson, Merrill D. (2002): John Brown: The Legend Revisited (ISBN 0-8139-2132-5)
- Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861 (1976)
- Renehan, Edward J. The Secret Six: The True Tale of the Men Who Conspired with John Brown. 1995.
- Reynolds, David S. (2005): John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights (2005)
- Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006.
- Scott, Otto, The Secret Six: John Brown and The Abolitionist Movement (1979).
- SenGupta, Gunja (Winter 2001). "Bleeding Kansas: A Review Essay" (PDF). Kansas History (24): 318–41.
- Smith, Ted A., Weird John Brown: Divine Violence and the Limits of Ethics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015.
- Villard, Oswald Garrison (1910). John Brown 1800–1859: A Biography Fifty Years After. Houghton Mifflin.
- Von Holst, Hermann (1889). John Brown. Boston, Cupples and Hurd.
- Whitman, Karen (October 1972). "Re-evaluating John Brown's Raid at Harpers Ferry". West Virginia History. 34 (1): 46–84.
- Banks, Russell. Cloudsplitter (1998).
- Bisson, Terry. Fire on the Mountain (1988)
- Brooks, Geraldine. March: A Love Story in a Time of War (2006)
- Cliff, Michelle. Free Enterprise. (1993)
- Ehrlich, Leonard. God's Angry Man (1932).
- Flint, Eric. 1824: The Arkansas War (2006)
- Fraser, George Macdonald. Flashman and the Angel of the Lord (1994)
- McBride, James. The Good Lord Bird (2013)
- Olds, Bruce. Raising Holy Hell (1995).
- Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1929: Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown's Body
- Rinaldi, Ann. Mine Eyes Have Seen. (1997)
- Robinson, Edwin Arlington. John Brown. (1921)
- Santa Fe Trail, film. (1940)
- Summers, Kevin G. "His Soul Goes Marching On" in Tales of Moreauvia, Issue One (2008).
Further online resources
- "John Brown, the good 'fanatic'" by Clinton Cox (2009)
- What John Brown Did In Kansas Battle of Osawatomie, 1856
- John Brown, Abolitionist, by David Reynolds, 2005
- Project Gutenberg: John Brown's Body (1928) (full text)
- John Brown, by Edwin Arlington Robinson, 1921
- John Brown the Abolitionist -- A Biographer's Blog Many links to Brown materials.
This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. (May 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- Guides to John Brown materials
- John Brown and the Valley of the Shadow". John Brown home page at the University of Virginia
- "'His Soul Goes Marching On': The Life and Legacy of John Brown." West Virginia Archives and History Online Exhibit
- Works by or about John Brown at Internet Archive
- John Brown at Curlie
- Collection of primary materials on John Brown
- New York History Net, John Brown's Farm
- John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery by David S. Reynolds excerpt
- Michael E. Ruane (October 14, 2009). "150 Years Later, John Brown's Failed Slave Revolt Marches On". The Washington Post.
- John Brown Song and Battle Hymn of the Republic
- Correspondence relating to the Insurrection at Harper's Ferry, October 17, 1859, Senate of Maryland, 1860. Western Maryland History Online
- John Brown Pike – Kansas Historical Society
- "John Brown and his Men, with Some Account of the Roads Traveled to Reach Harper's Ferry," poem by Jared Carter.
- John Brown Desk, Kansas Historical Society website
- John Brown Tannery Park, Site of the Franklin Mills Tannery, now a municipal park in Kent, Ohio
- Harpers Ferry Revolver – Kansas Historical Society
- "John Brown, Lock of hair, 1859", Home Front: Boston and the Civil War, Exhibitions, Boston Public Library, 2011 (memento of James Miller McKim)
- Historical, Marker for Kent, Ohio, Underground Railroad activity, mentioning John Brown's tenure in the vicinity