*Includes Brown's jailhouse interview and courtroom statement after being convicted and sentenced to death.
*Discusses the relationships Brown had with famous contemporaries like Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
"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." - John Brown the day of his execution
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' American Legends series, readers can get caught up to speed on the lives of America's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
Throughout the 1850s, American politicians tried to sort out the nation's intractable issues. In an attempt to organize the center of North America - Kansas and Nebraska - without offsetting the slave-free balance, Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Kansas-Nebraska Act eliminated the Missouri Compromise line of 1820, which the Compromise of 1850 had maintained. Settlers could now vote whether they wanted their state to be slave or free, and the primary result was that thousands of zealous pro-slavery and anti-slavery advocates both moved to Kansas to influence the vote, creating a dangerous and ultimately deadly mix.
The most famous and infamous of them all was John Brown, one of the most controversial men in American history. A radical abolitionist, Brown organized a small band of like-minded followers and fought with the armed groups of pro-slavery men in Kansas for several months, including a notorious incident known as the Pottawatomie Massacre, in which Brown's supporters murdered five men.
In 1859 he began to set a new plan in motion that he hoped would create a full scale slave uprising in the South. Brown's plan relied on raiding Harpers Ferry, a strategically located armory in western Virginia that had been the main federal arms depot after the Revolution. Given its proximity to the South, Brown hoped to seize thousands of rifles and move them south, gathering slaves and swelling his numbers as he went. The slaves would then be armed and ready to help free more slaves, inevitably fighting Southern militias along the way.
Brown traveled to Harper's Ferry that summer under an assumed name and waited for his recruits, but he struggled to get even 20 people to join him. Rather than call off the plan, however, Brown went ahead with it, and that Fall, he and his men used hundreds of rifles to seize the armory at Harper's Ferry. However, the plan went haywire from the start, and word of his attack quickly spread. Local pro-slavery men formed a militia and pinned Brown and his men down while they were still at the armory.
The fallout from John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was intense. Southerners had long suspected that abolitionists hoped to arm the slaves and use violence to abolish slavery, and Brown's raid seemed to confirm that. Meanwhile, much of the northern press praised Brown for his actions. In the South, conspiracy theories ran wild about who had supported the raid, and many believed prominent abolitionist Republicans had been behind the raid as well. Brown's raid has often been considered one of the main precursors to the Civil War.
American Legends: The Life of John Brown chronicles the life of the controversial abolitionist, examining his raid and his lasting legacy. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about John Brown like you never have before, in no time at all.