“Goodbye” John Brown (abolitionist) – Died 2 December 1859

John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859) was an American abolitionist who believed  that an armed struggle was the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States. He was tried for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, the murder of five men and inciting a slave insurrection. He was found guilty on all counts and was hanged

Brown first gained attention when he led small groups of volunteers during the Bleeding Kansas crisis. Most Northerners advocated peaceful resistance to the pro-slavery faction, but Brown believed that this method was ineffective and that the only way to defeat the system of slavery was through violent action.

He believed that the pacifism adopted by the organised abolitionist movement was misplaced. He commented,  “These men are all talk. What we need is action—action!”.

During the Kansas campaign, he and his supporters killed five pro-slavery southerners in what became known as the Pottawatomie Massacre in May 1856. In 1859 he led a raid on the federal armoury at Harpers Ferry and took control it. During the struggle, seven people were killed and ten or more were injured. He intended to arm slaves with weapons captured from the armoury, but the attack failed and within 36 hours, Brown’s men had fled or been killed or captured by local pro slavery farmers, militiamen, and U.S. Marines led by Robert E. Lee.

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