The Abolitionist Who Used Violence

The Abolitionist Who Used Violence

Lilus M., Staff Writer

     You’re familiar with the term “abolitionist”, right? Abolitionists were people who were opposed to slavery and fought against it. By ‘fought’, some people mean as in writing articles in the newspaper, delivering speeches, and so on. They didn’t actually fight fight…right? Well, one man named John Brown was so determined to end slavery that he believed violence was the answer. I don’t blame him, though.

     John Brown was a white abolitionist. He was raised by a family who helped several slaves. He was raised to be opposed to slavery, actually. His father was extremely religious, and believed that ALL people were brothers and sisters. Brown grew up to be exactly like his father and taught his own family his beliefs about slavery. Just like their father, all of Brown’s sons grew up to be abolitionists. 

     It wasn’t until 1837 that Brown’s life was changed forever. That year, the editor of a newspaper, who was also an abolitionist, was assassinated by a group of pro slavery men (people who believed in slaver). At his funeral, Brown swore that his god wanted him to help slaves rebel. At that point, he dedicated his life to ending slavery. It was 1855 when Brown decided to join his sons’ mission to keep slavery out of Kansas. At that time, all states could decide for themselves if they wanted to allow slavery or not in their territory. The Border Ruffians, which was a group made up of raiders, would travel to Kansas and FORCE people to vote for slavery, whether they liked it or not. This was Brown and his sons’ first mission; to prevent this from happening. Brown knew that violence was the only way to keep out the raiders, so he became the leader of a group of soldiers. The group used their guns to chase away the unwelcomed raiders. The plan seemed to work, but it wasn’t until 1856 that a few Border Ruffians set the city of Lawrance, Kansas to fire, injuring and killing several townspeople. It turned out that this town was AGAINST slavery, so the Ruffians wanted to scare them. Brown and his group arrive at the crime scene, where he seeks revenge for this evil deed. He and his sons ended up killing five Border Ruffians, and Brown was later wanted for murder. So he left Kansas before getting caught, and along the way, he grew a beard in order to change his appearance. For about two years, he met with abolitionists from the East and North. After spending time gathering weapons and some followers, Brown decided that it was time for Plan B.

     Brown rented a small farmhouse outside of Harpers Ferry in July 1859, which he turned into his headquarters. Headquarter…what for? His RAID. Yes, his Plan B was to start a raid in Harpers Ferry with his group of sons and other men. His goal was to free the slaves there. He also hoped that nearby slaves would rebel against their owners and join his raid. So, he gathered about 200 weapons and hid them in a schoolhouse, hoping the slaves would get weapons for themselves and join his raid. After much planning and waiting, September came. Brown was hoping to create a big army strong enough to fight against the town, but only 22 other men ended up coming. Brown was too impatient, though. So he decided to take action on the night of October 16. The raid has officially begun. Right after quietly sneaking into the town of Harpers Ferry, Brown told his men to try not to shoot anybody if they were unarmed. Unfortunately, one of his men made a huge mistake. The group captured a guard, but when he began to flee, one of the men shot him. In great pain, the guard was able to escape. A train was passing by, and he was able to stop it. He warned the train constructor that there was a raid going on. One of the railroad workers was a free Black man. He went to check if there was really a raid going on. The man who shot the guard thought the railroad worker was the guard coming back to stop them, so he shot him. Now, the first person to get killed at the raid was a free Black man, although Brown’s goal was to free the town’s slaves. The gunshots woke up sleeping townspeople, and the passengers on the train sent for help. Several of Brown’s men were killed by the town’s nearby soldiers. His group was forced to hide in a small building. Brown was hoping that the slaves would save and join him. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t tell any slaves from nearby plantations about the raid, so they had no idea there was a raid going on. At the end, several men were captured and killed, one of Brown’s sons was killed along Black abolitionist, and Brown was captured. He was taken to prison, and then court, where he was charged with murder and encouraging slaves to rebel. He was found guilty, and November 2, he was sentenced to death. He was to be hung. It was on December 2 when Brown’s life came to an end, and he was only 59 years old. Only soldiers were allowed to witness his death because townspeople were afraid that abolitionists would try to save Brown. 

      In the end, although Brown’s raid never got to free any slaves as Brown intended to do, it did help lead to the Civil War. Not only that, but the raid became extremely significant. He was viewed as a hero by several slaves. The raid also raised awarness about slavery, and how people were determined to finally end it. Yes, Brown did use violence rather than peace to help end slavery. But he knew that it would take much bloodshed to actually help put an end to slavery. In a later case, the Civil War, where about 620,00 soldiers died. Some people say violence is never the answer. To Brown, it was his only option.