I acknowledge no man in human form.
—John Brown, under interrogation at
Harper's Ferry, October 19, 18591
Following the lead of biographers and journalists, John Brown has often been portrayed in fiction and film as a white religious fanatic who was obsessed with the violent destruction of slavery. He is especially remembered for his failed raid at Harper's Ferry [West] Virginia, where he lead a small band of white and black men in seizing a government armory in October 1859. Born in 1800, he spent most of his fifty-nine years in pursuit of business success, though failing for the most part to achieve his goals. In the decade prior to the Civil War, abolitionists intensified their attempts to aid and assist fugitive slaves and other blacks resisting the long reach of slavery into the North. But whereas most of them adhered to pacifism, Brown had steadily honed his belief in the forceful overthrow of slavery until he himself determined to lead the effort.
A deeply religious man and father of a large family, he believed that slavery was not going to relent in the face of political compromise or moral outcries from abolitionists. When pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces clashed in the newly opened Kansas territory in 1856, Brown and his family stood at the epicenter of the crisis as determined enemies of slavery and—as a minority within a minority—passionate allies of the black community. Though he and others fought fire with fire against proslavery terrorists who had initiated the fighting and excelled in cruelty, Brown's many detractors have increasingly emphasized his role in the violent Kansas conflict to the point of suggesting he was “the father of
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Publication information: Book title: "Fire from the Midst of You": A Religious Life of John Brown. Contributors: Louis A. Decaro Jr. - Author. Publisher: New York University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2002. Page number: 1.
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