This picture was taken by Augustus Washington, an African American, in Hartford, CT. This link tells the story: http://www.civilwar.si.edu/slavery_brown1.html.
John Brown is one of the most interesting characters to research in American history of slavery. John Brown was a man of action. Brown put words into action and would not be deterred from his mission, abolishing slavery. The first step into researching this figure is to look through his roots, where and what he came from. Brown was born into a very religious family in Torrington, Connecticut, in 1800. His father was strongly opposed to slavery, and they ended up moving to Northern Ohio while Brown was very young. This district would become famous for its views on antislavery. During his lifetime, Brown moved around the country. Some of the places he settled during his time were Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York. Along with him traveled his family, who never seemed to stop growing. Actually, Brown ended up fathering twenty children! Brown never experienced financial success. He switched jobs frequently between being a farmer, wool merchant, tanner and a land speculator. When Brown was 40 he filed for bankruptcy. Nevertheless, Brown’s lack of funds never stopped him from supporting his mission and views he believed in.
Brown did many different things for his cause, including giving land to fugitive slaves, adopting and raising a black youth, participating in the Underground Railroad and establishing the League of Gileadites in 1851. This organization worked to protect escaped slaves from slave catchers. During his lifetime Brown also got to meet the famous Frederick Douglass in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1847. Douglass was impressed by Brown’s views for a white man; Frederick Douglass thought his words were taken out of a slave´s mouth. During the meeting Brown showed Douglass his plans of leading a war to free slaves. In 1849, Brown ended up moving to a black community in New York called North Elba. In this community, African Americans families were donated acres of land to clear and farm the land. Brown actually ended up establishing his own farm to lead by example and show the black families how it was done. Interestingly enough, Brown wouldn’t become a man of major significance until 1855; after he went to the Kansas territory with his sons and joined an antislavery guerilla movement. Quickly, Brown stood up as the leader and fought back a proslavery attack on Lawrence, an antislavery town. The year after, Brown and his men went to a proslavery town and killed five of its settlers. For the rest of the year, Brown and his sons would continue on fighting in the territory of Missouri.
After moving back east, Brown started thinking more seriously about his plan for a war in Virginia against slavery. More money was sought so he could form an “army” to lead. In 1859, the plan was set in action and Brown and his 21 men raided the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. However, local farmers, militiamen, and Marines led by Robert E. Lee fought back, and within 36 hours, most of Brown´s men had been killed or captured. Brown was tried and convicted of treason in Charleston. Before he heard his sentence, Brown was allowed to make an address to the court.
“I believe to have interfered as I have done, . . . in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, if it be deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children, and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit: so let it be done.”
The event of Brown´s execution and the address he delivered before his death most definitely sparked up great tension leading into the Civil War. Northerners began to speak favorably of John Brown. It is safe to say that Brown was a man who lived before his time. His views were too modern for society to handle, and Brown ended up having to pay for it. Brown was sentenced to death and executed on December 2nd 1859. Doing good research on John Brown, his quotations and actions and so forth, would be a very interesting experience. Brown was originally born in Connecticut as a Springfield resident, and I feel like it is our duty as residents of Suffield, CT to dig into the history of this man. Also, Brown´s ancestors were buried in Windsor, CT and it has been suggested that Brown went down to visit Windsor. Was he checking out his ancestor´s graves? That would be for us to find out.