I’m Mr. Beat I’m here in Osawatomie, Kansas in front of the John Brown Museum. John Brown, that’s right. The infamous abolitionist, probably the most infamous abolitionist in history. He moved to Kansas during the Bleeding Kansas era. He wanted Kansas to be a free state. He ended up killing people in the name of ending slavery. Was John Brown a hero or was he a terrorist? But first, let’s go back to the beginning. John Brown was born in Torrington, Connecticut on May 9, 1800. His parents, Owen and Ruth Brown. He was the fourth one born of their eight kids. No, he didn’t look like that when he was a baby. No one knows what he looked like when he was a baby, silly. Brown’s family moved around a lot when he was a kid, but he spent most of his youth in Ohio. He had a very religious upbringing. Owen and Ruth also raised John to absolutely hate slavery. At 16 years old, he left his family and went to Plainfield, Massachusetts, where he studied to become a Congregationalist minister. Ultimately, though, Brown went into the same business as his dad. He raised cattle and worked as a tanner. You know, making leather from animal skins. At one point he was also a surveyor. You know, checking out the land and stuff. In 1820, he married Dianthe Lusk. The couple eventually had 7 children together, and ended up settling in New Richmond, Pennsylvania. This is what’s left of the tannery John Brown ran while living there. Between 1825 and 1835, the tannery was an important stop on the Underground Railroad. No it wasn’t an actual railroad, you silly goose. The Underground Railroad was just what they called the secret network of routes and safe houses used to aid runaway slaves. It’s estimated that Brown helped more than 2,500 slaves at that tannery. The 1830s didn’t begin so well for Brown. In 1831, his 4-year old son Frederick died. Brown himself got really sick and his businesses struggled, causing him to get in big debt. The next year, Dianthe died while giving birth to an unnamed son who also died shortly afterward. Clearly, this was a low point in Brown’s life, but he soon met someone new…Mary Ann Day. She was 16. He was 32. They married on June 14, 1833. Eventually, they had 13 more kids together, although only six of them made it to adulthood. In 1836, the Browns moved to what is now Kent, Ohio. The next year, after a pro-slavery mob murdered the influential abolitionist Elijah Parish Lovejoy, Brown stood up in the back of a church and said “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery.” Meanwhile, in Ohio he had attempted again to operate a tannery, but struggled to make money from it. By 1839, he was again heavily in debt, and ended up losing his farm and getting arrested when he refused to give it up to its new owner. A federal court declared him bankrupt on September 28, 1842. The next year, four of his kids died of dysentery. Around this time Brown had taken an interest in sheep and wool. He partnered with a dude named Simon Perkins and became a shepherd. But he never made much money from wool, either. In 1846, he returned to New England, convincing Perkins to come with him and moving the family to Springfield, Massachusetts, where the whole abolitionist movement was starting to take off. Brown’s experiences in Springfield had a profound effect on him. It was there he got to see lectures by two African American abolitionists who had escaped slavery earlier in life- Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. He also got to see the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. By 1850, the wool business had struggled again and Brown had become more radicalized than ever. In other words, now increasingly Brown talked about violence as the only solution to end slavery. Brown told folks that God had personally selected him to lead a major slave rebellion. In response to the Fugitive Slave Law, passed that year as part of the (sing) Compromise of 1850, he created a militant group to protect runaway slaves. By this time, he and his family lived in North Elba, New York, where a rich abolitionist named Gerrit Smith actually gave away free land to African Americans at a farming colony called Timbuctoo. Brown wanted to assist blacks trying to establish new communities in the area, and Smith gave him some land to farm while he did so. Brown was happy there, but his attention shifted back west after the passage of a horrible law known as The Kansas-Nebraska Act. The law created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska and established popular sovereignty in both territories, allowing the settlers who lived in both to decide whether or not to have slavery there. Well five of John Brown’s sons, John Brown Jr., Jason, Owen, Frederick II, and Salmon all decided to get up and move to Kansas Territory to help it become a free state, not a slave state. They ended up near the town of Osawatomie. Shortly after his sons arrived in Kansas, it became known as “Bloody Kansas” or “Bleeding Kansas” due to the violence there between anti-slavery folks and pro-slavery folks trying to establish power there. For more about this violence, you should most definitely check out my video Why Kansas Hates Missouri. It was crazy, man. Anyway, it was this violence that caused John Brown himself to move out to Kansas. Grady: The reason why he ultimately came here was because his son, John Brown Jr. wrote him a letter that stated, you know Father, we need guns more than anything else. “Cause they had come out here with a rifle, with a pistol and a shotgun. and that’s all the five brothers had between them. Mr. Beat: I mean, he was a father worried about the safety of his sons, after all. He got there in the fall of 1855, along with his son Oliver and son-in-law Henry Thompson. They all helped to make Kansas a free state. Grady: John Brown, out of concern of his family came out here, and literally stopped at four or five abolitionist towns and gathered up enough weapons to fill up a wagon. Mr. Beat: Like I said earlier, I’m in front of the John Brown Museum, and in that museum is the Adair cabin. Brown and his sons spent much time here. It was the home of Florella Adair, Brown’s half-sister, and her husband, the Reverend Samuel Adair. They let John Brown and his sons stay there sometimes. Grady: and they could come and go from here ’cause it was very close to Osawatomie, which was an abolitionist stronghold. The original location of that cabin was about a mile from this location they moved it here, built a museum around it and today you can still see how it really looked. Later Brown added on an addition as a place where runaway slaves could stay. But yeah, this cabin became a headquarters of sorts for Brown and his sons. Keep in mind that at the time John Brown moved to Kansas, he was a nobody. He wasn’t famous. Nobody knew who he was until he started killing people. Killing people? Yep, that started in 1856. In May 21st of that year, a group of pro-slavery forces destroyed and looted much of Lawrence, one of the leading anti-slavery towns in Kansas. When Brown found out about this, he was angry VERY angry. He also was angry, VERY angry, after he heard about Preston Brooks beating the crap out of the anti-slavery Senator Charles Sumner the day after the sacking of Lawrence. I have a video about that, too, by the way. Brown had had enough. On the night of May 24 and morning of May 25, he led a group of abolitionists who dragged pro-slavery settlers out of their homes and murdered them. This is the approximate location of where it happened, and it became known as the Pottawatomie Massacre. Brown went into hiding, but Captain Henry Pate captured and arrested two of his sons- John Brown Jr. and Jason, and destroyed the family homestead. On June 2, Brown caught up to Pate and a group of Missourians he was leading near what today is Baldwin City. After some fighting, Brown and his forces captured 22 of Pate’s men and held them for ransom. Brown agreed to release them after Pate released his sons. This became known as the Battle of Black Jack. After this, Brown and his sons went back into hiding, but continuing to lead guerilla attacks throughout Northeastern Kansas. On August 30, General John William Reid and between 250 and 400 pro-slavery forces attacked Osawatomie. Despite being outnumbered more than seven to one, Brown and his small group put up a good fight trying to defend the town. However, they killed Brown’s son Frederick II and ultimately took the town over, looting and burning it to the ground. Still, Brown emerged as an abolitionist hero after that battle. The violence calmed down quite a bit in the fall, and Brown and three of his sons returned back East to try to raise money for the abolitionist cause. For the next two years, he not only raised money, but gathered weapons. He was planning something big. He returned to Kansas in the summer of 1858 to continue leading raids and freeing slaves. He also spent some time in Iowa, but ultimately ended up back east to carry out a plan he had in his head for decades- he wanted to raid the Southern slave states to free all the slaves. It was ambitious. It was crazy. It was totally John Brown. Brown even wrote a constitution for the area in the Southern slave states for after he took them over. His constitution called for things like direct elections of the President and Vice President, working on roads and other public projects as a punishment for crimes, and the banning of “profane swearing, filthy conversation, indecent behavior, indecent exposure of the person, and unlawful intercourse of the sexes.” While Brown got several delegates to sign his constitution, he struggled to get volunteers to join his forces. Throughout 1859, he traveled the continent trying to get people to help him with his planned invasion. He tried to get Frederick Douglass to join him, but Douglass politely declined. At one point, THE Harriet Tubman joined him to help gather up more former slaves to join his forces. Soon Brown had his eyes on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (which today is in West Virginia), as the place where he wanted to begin the rebellion. His plan was to raid a federal arsenal there and use the weapons from the arsenal to give to local slaves so that they could then help with the uprising. Well spoiler alert. That plan would fail miserably. First of all, Brown could only gather 21 men to help him raid the arsenal. On the rainy night of October 16, 1859, Brown and his men did easily take over the arsenal, which was guarded by just one dude. They even cut telegraph lines and rounded up hostages who were nearby. However, the next day, the Virginia militia arrived and surrounded them. Brown’s insurrection was already failing. By the end of the day, eight of his men were dead or dying. Two of the dead were Brown’s sons Watson and Oliver. Five others were separated from the main group, two had been captured, and two had escaped across the Potomac River. Brown’s men did end up killing four people. The next day, federal troops arrived under the command of Robert E. Lee, and had surrounded Brown and his remaining men in an engine house, which today is known as John Brown’s Fort. Brown refused to surrender, apparently now wanting to be a martyr at that spot. However, he would be a martyr later on at a different spot. The Marines swept in and captured him, along with seven others. They were quickly put on trial for murder, conspiracy, and treason against Virginia. It was a quick trial. On November 2, just a couple weeks after the raid, the jury found Brown guilty on all three counts. The judge sentenced him to be hanged in public. Brown received little sympathy from most Americans. Even most abolitionists distanced themselves from him, saying it he was too extreme and that this was not the way to end slavery, man. William Lloyd Garrison called the raid “misguided, wild, and apparently insane.” On the morning of his death, he wrote these foreboding words: “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” Many historians point to his raid on Harper’s Ferry as a big cause of the American Civil War war, by the way. John Wilkes Booth, the famous actor who later assassinated Abraham Lincoln, snuck into Brown’s execution. Major Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who became famous later during the American Civil War that started a year and a half later, also was there. He wrote later that day: “John Brown was hung today at about 11 1/2 A.M. He behaved with unflinching firmness.” Brown died at 59 years old. He was buried at his old farm in upstate New York, and you can visit his tomb today at what is now John Brown Farm State Historic Site. Like I said, John Brown was mostly seen unfavorably at the time of his death by both Northerners and Southerners. However, many African American leaders of the time and later greatly respected him, often referring to him as a martyr for the cause of ending slavery. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the image of John Brown as a hero made a huge comeback for those other than African Americans. Today, however, the debate still goes on. Was John Brown a hero or a terrorist? Grady: If you look at both sides of the issue, it was two groups of terrorists attacking each other. So, by our modern definition, yes he was. By their definition, he was a guerilla fighter at the time. If you’re going to be fair to John Brown, and even fair to the pro slavery guerillas, they were guerilla fighters. I did poll Twitter this question last week. And most said he was a hero. But what do YOU think? Neil and Grayson, two of my amazing former students, had pretty good replies. Why not “anti-hero?” Or, why not “both?” A shout out to Cjkavy, a Patreon supporter who suggested this video topic. Finally, I got to make a video about John Brown. Also, if you want your video topic suggestion heard, At least at the $15 a month level or higher That’s the Grover Cleveland level. Speaking of that level or higher here is my montly shout out to my Patreon supporters. Matt Standish, Andrew Schneider Jojo’s Dogtail, Sean Conant Unnamed Muffin, Austin Rudolph, Zachary F. Parker Elcaspar, Eric B. Wolman, Chris John Johnson, Alicia Solberg, Kit Walker and PresidentStorm. Thank you all for your support and thank YOU for watching this video.