Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Today In 1859 John Brown Was Hanged

One hundred and fifty-five years ago today John Brown was executed after leading an anti-slavery raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, part of the radical movement of tens of thousands of Americans struggling to undermine the institution of slavery in America before the Civil War.

It’s often said that just one thing secured Brown’s place in the hearts of millions of Americans – his execution and martyrdom. But there is another more important reason to celebrate the life of John Brown – his courage in standing against unjust state and federal laws, the press, and popular culture in the cause of basic human rights.

In 2009, I wrote a ten-part series of posts following the last days of John Brown’s fight to end slavery. You can find that here (to read in chronological order, start at the bottom).

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John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.

4 Responses

  1. Thanks for this John. I became fascinated with John Brown’s story this summer while visiting the Adks. I hunkered down by a crackling fire in an adk cabin in the Auutmn and read the Cloud Splitter by Russell Banks. This robust read filled in a lot of the blanks for me and now I look forward to reading your series of posts as well. As a Canadian I was unaware how deeply divided the US became over slavery. It seems in certain areas of the US this conflict still seems as potent as in John Brown’s day. Here’s hoping we can move on to a more unified and inclusive country in the future.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    His cause was just. His methods were terrible. He was a terrorist.

  3. Naj Wikoff says:

    Holly, In my opinion, the best books about John Brown are by Louis DeCaro; i.e. John Brown, The Cost of Freedom, John Brown: The Man Who Lived – a collection of essays, and Fire From the Midst of You. Google his name and it will lead to his blog, which will connect one to other leading researchers and writers about Brown. Each May John Brown Lives! and the John Brown Farm hold an annual tribute to Brown on or near his birthdate that address his legacy today, and the work that remains to be done to address the ongoing scourge of slavery and injustice. Canada played a very important role especially in the years leading up to the Civil War as it was the destination for escaped slaves many of whom traveled up along Lake Champlain to reach freedom. The North Country Underground Railroad Museum near Ausable Chasm is well worth a visit.

  4. Matt says:

    Great series John. It was a pleasure to read, especially in the context of our current state of affairs. Thank you.