John Brown was born in Connecticut. As an adult, he moved to North Elba in New York's Adirondack Mountains, where he raised his family. As a child, Brown was raised to believe that slavery was wrong. He continued this philosophy by working most of his life to fight slavery. His activity took many forms, from giving land to fugitive slaves to actively participating in the Underground Railroad.
Yet Brown thought he could do more, so on October 16, 1859, he led twenty-one men on a raid of a federal government weapons storage building at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Brown planned to give the weapons to slaves, but he and his companions were stopped by local farmers, militiamen, and U.S. Marines. Most of Brown's men were killed or captured in the raid. Brown was wounded, captured, and taken to Charlestown, Virginia, where he was convicted of treason. John Brown was hanged on December 2, 1859.
Following Brown's execution, his body was returned to his farm in North Elba, New York, which he founded to assist unfortunate African American men. Many years later, the bodies of his sons and followers who died in the Harper's Ferry raid were removed to the farm. In 1895, the property was given to New York State, and a memorial was established. The farm has become a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public.
How do individuals influence a culture and society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the influence of John Brown on American culture and society.
Research the details of John Brown’s fight against slavery. What made him such an active abolitionist?
Science: What materials is a tombstone made of? What other objects are made of this same material(s)?
English Language Arts: Write a letter to John Brown letting him know what you think of his actions against slavery. Was he selfish? Was he heroic? Admirable? Criminal? Explain why you feel the way you do.
English Language Arts: Pretend you are the prosecuting or defending attorney in John Brown's trial. Write an opening statement to the jury.