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Frederick Douglass had lived with Hugh Auld and his wife Sophia ("Miss Sopha") in Baltimore for most of his childhood and youth (ages 8 to 20), excepting two terrible years in rural Maryland in the custody of his legal owner, Thomas Auld (Hugh's brother). Thomas's grown daughter, Amanda, now "Mrs. Sears" of Philadelphia and an opponent of slavery, had recently re-introduced herself to Douglass. Perhaps stirred by that contact, Douglass revisited the painful gaps in his life story. His letter quietly testifies to the suffering and disorientation that slavery inflicted by stripping away the fundamentals of human identity. Transcription (see original on previous page) Rochester Oct. 4th 1857 Hugh Auld Esq. My dear sir: My heart tells me that you are too noble to treat with indifference the request I am about to make, It is twenty years since I ran away from you, or rather not from you but from -slavery, and since then I have often felt a strong desire to hold a little correspondence with you and to learn something of the position and prospects of your dear children. They were dear to me - and are still - indeed I feel nothing but kindness for you all - I love you, but hate slavery. Now my dear sir, will you favor me by dropping me a line, telling me in what year I came to live with you in Aliceanna St. the year the Frigate was built by Mr. Beacham. The information is not for publication - and shall not be published. We are all hastening where all distinctions are ended, kindness to the humblest will not be unrewarded. Perhaps you have heard that I have seen Miss Amanda that was, Mrs. Sears that is, and was treated kindly such is the fact, Gladly would I see you and Mrs. Auld or Miss Sopha as I used to call her. I could have lived with you during life in freedom though I ran away from you so unceremoniously, I did not know how soon I might be sold. But I hate to talk about that. A line from you will find me Addressed Fred K Douglass Rochester N. York. I am dear sir very truly yours, Fred: Douglass Item Description and Credits: GLC 7484.06. Frederick Douglass to Hugh Auld, 4 October 1857 Suggested Reading: Frederick Douglass, Autobiographies: "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" / "My Bondage and My Freedom" / "Life and Times of Frederick Douglass", ed. Henry Louis Gates (Library of America, 1996).
David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass's Civil War: Keeping the Faith in Jubilee (Louisiana State University Press, 1989). William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass (W.W Norton, 1991). Introduction: Frederick Douglass and the Reality of Jim Crow [Available from http://www.gilderlehrman.org/collection/doc_print.php?doc_id=158] The intrepid abolitionist Frederick Douglass was never content with the state of the world as he knew it. Douglass lived through slavery's demise, but continued to be subjected to racism. Despite the passage of several Constitutional amendments and federal laws that followed the Civil War, unwritten rules continued to curtail the rights and opportunities of African Americans. Douglass succinctly summarized the reality of Jim Crow in an 1887 letter that claimed the South's “wrongs are not much now written in laws which all may see – but the hidden practices of people who have not yet, abandoned the idea of Mastery and dominion over their fellow man.” Racism, violence, and vigilantism were the tools of “Mastery” that permitted whites to accomplish what the law theoretically prohibited. Douglass' correspondence reflected the belief shared among the black community that the best places to combat “hidden practices” of the Jim Crow years were in the schoolhouse and the court room. Living in Washington, D.C. since 1872, Douglass had ample opportunity to witness discrimination in nearby Maryland and Virginia and was keenly aware of the struggle for quality schooling and judicial access during the post-Reconstruction years. Douglass was passing along his observations when he said “from all I can learn colored lawyers are admitted to practice in Southern Courts and I am very glad to admit the fact – for it implies a wonderful revolution in the public sentiment of the Southern States. I have not yet learned what are the inequalities between the races as to school privileges at the south – In some of the states the time alloted to colored schools is less than that allowed to whites. And I have heard and believe that in none of the states are the teachers of colored Schools as well paid as the teachers of White Schools.” By the 1880s, separation of the races was becoming increasingly apparent with school segregation mandated by law in nearly every Southern state. Despite this adversity, Douglass made it clear that inequalities could be corrected by challenging the system. During this time, however, many Southern black leaders actually preferred segregated schools as a source of local autonomy and independence. All-black colleges rapidly became the primary centers of resistance to Jim Crow, although their administrators and staff frequently differed over how best to make their stand. At the primary and secondary school levels, truly heroic efforts were made by impoverished teachers to educate their pupils, usually in the face of adversity. With an onslaught of a new era of white supremacy flourishing in the South, it became increasingly difficult for blacks to obtain an education. Employers even went as far as firing black employees for attending school. Vigilante groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, terrorized African Americans by burning schools and randomly beating and murdering teachers and students.
Douglass looked to the courts to provide and enforce equality before the law, an explicit right granted by the 14th amendment. However, his statement that: “colored Lawyers are admitted to practice in Southern Courts” was only partially correct. Even in states where African Americans were permitted to practice, their numbers were few and their achievements limited. Employment records in the United States census show only one African American lawyer in Virginia in 1870, ten by 1880, and fifty-three in 1900. Twenty-seven lawyers were admitted to the Arkansas bar between 1891 and 1923. Many black lawyers in the south came from or obtained their education in the North. Others took correspondence courses or apprenticed to practicing attorneys. For the most part, African American attorneys were relegated to non-trial work. Often class interests trumped racial loyalty. When wealthy blacks had a choice, they usually hired white attorneys. While Douglass' observation that “a wonderful revolution” had taken place was overly optimistic, he was correct that the courts would become a key battleground for equal rights in the decades to come. But the situation became worse before it improved. Formal legal segregation in all aspects of Southern life became a reality in the Plessy v. Ferguson case, which stated segregation did not constitute discrimination, thus establishing the "separate but equal" doctrine. It would take nearly seventy years before the civil rights revolution which Douglass envisioned would result in a realm of equal citizenship. David J. Gary Manuscript Cataloger Transcript: My dear sir: Pardon delay – answer to your letter made careful enquiry necessary. From all I can learn colored Lawyers are admitted to practice in Southern Courts, and I am very glad to admit the fact – for it implies a wonderful revolution in the public sentiment of the Southern States. I have not yet learned what are the inequalities between the races as to school privileges at the south – In some of the states the time allotted to colored schools is less than that allowed to whites. And I have heard and believe that in none of the states are the teachers of colored Schools as well paid as the teachers of White Schools. My own observation has been that white teachers of Colored schools in the southern states, show but little interest in their pupils. This is not strange, since they  have been selected as teachers more because of their necessities, than from any interests they have shown in the progress and elevation of the colored race. [struck: bu] I say this not of all, but of those in Virginia for instance who have come under my observation. In Kentucky I believe so far as the law is concerned equal advantages are extended to colored children for Education, and the Same may be true of other states. I think the Bureau of Education will give you all the information you may require on this branch  of the subject of your enquiries, our wrongs are not so much now in written laws which al may see – but the hidden practices of a people who have not yet abandoned the idea of Mastery and dominion over their fellow man. With great Respect
Yours truly Fredk Douglass Cedar Hill Anacostia D.C. Nov: 23. 1887 Item Description and Credits GLC 08992 Frederick Douglass, Washington, D.C., 23 November 1887.
Suggested Reading: Finkelman, Paul, ed. The Age of Jim Crow: Segregation from the End of Reconstruction to the Great Depression. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992. Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988. Gilmore, Glenda Elizabeth. Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina 1896-1920. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996. Klarman, Michael J. From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Moran, Robert E. The Reign of Jim Crow: Separatism and the Black Response. Columbus, OH: American Education Publications, Education Center, 1970. Woodward, C. Vann. The Strange Career of Jim Crow. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955. Wormser, Richard. The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003.
Eye on John Brown
[Available from: http://historynow.org/09_2005/historian6.html] by Steven Mintz John and Rebecca Moores Professor of History, University of Houston
Photograph of John Brown, ca. 1859 (GLC 06391.14) In 1856, three years before his celebrated raid on Harpers Ferry, John Brown, with four of his sons and three others, dragged five unarmed men and boys from their homes along Kansas's Pottawatomie Creek, and hacked and dismembered their bodies as if they were cattle being butchered in a stockyard. Two years later, Brown led a raid into Missouri, where he and his followers killed a planter and freed eleven slaves. Brown's party also absconded with wagons, mules, harnesses, and horses – a pattern of plunder that Brown followed in other forays. During his 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, seventeen people died. The first was a black railroad baggage handler; others shot and killed by Brown's men included the town's popular mayor and two townsfolk. In the wake of Timothy McVeigh's attack on the federal office building in Oklahoma City in 1995 and Al Qaeda's strikes on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, Americans might ask how they should remember John Brown. Was he a bloodthirsty zealot, a vigilante, a terrorist, or a madman? Or was he one of the great heroes of American history, a freedom fighter and martyr to the cause of human liberty? Was his resort to violence any different from, for example, those by Paul Hill and John Salvi, who, in the mid-1990s, murdered abortion-clinic workers in God's name? Nearly a century and a half after his execution, John Brown remains one of the most fiercely debated and enigmatic figures in American history. Brown's earliest biographers – especially James Redpath, Franklin Sanborn, and Oswald Garrison Villard – were hero-worshippers who considered Brown a warrior-saint whose assaults on slavery represented the first crucial steps toward emancipation. During the 1930s and early 1940s, a more critical view arose. At a time when revisionists regarded the Civil War as a needless conflict fomented by fanatics and blundering politicians, many scholars followed the lead of James C. Malin, who argued that Brown was little more than an indiscriminate murderer, swindler, and petty horse thief, who had little genuine interest in antislavery or in the rights of African Americans. Following World War II, many leading historians dismissed Brown as
clinically delusional – Bruce Catton called him "unbalanced to the verge of outright madness" – and denounced his attack on Harpers Ferry as an act of treason. A notable dissenter was the Marxist historian Herbert Aptheker, who argued that Brown's rage against slavery grew out of his fury over market capitalism, which had reduced his family to poverty. In the 1960s a new generation of scholars viewed Brown as an uncompromising idealist, a principled agitator, and a genuine revolutionary who envisioned an America free of racial prejudice. Since 1970, Brown has been the subject of at least forty-three biographies, scholarly studies, and works of fiction (as well as eighteen children's books), including a bestselling novel (Russell Banks's Cloudsplitter), a brilliant collection of annotated primary sources (Zoe Trodd and John Stauffer's Meteor of War), an extended analysis of his religious beliefs (Louis A. DeCaro Jr.'s Fire from the Midst of You), and two studies of his legacy and place in American memory (Merrill Peterson's John Brown: The Legend Revisited and Peggy A. Russo and Paul Finkelman's Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown). Far more objective and much freer of the venom and over-romanticizing that marred earlier scholarship, these works do an impressive job of separating the man from the myth and locating Brown in the context of his times. David S. Reynolds's John Brown, Abolitionist, the first full-length biography in a generation, provides essential background for the critical issues raised by John Brown's life. A "cultural biography," which seeks to show how Brown's life reflected, shaped, and ultimately transcended his age, the book is aimed at a popular as well as a scholarly audience and advances two overarching arguments: First, at a time when white supremacy was the norm, Brown was one of a handful of white Americans who could interact with blacks on a level of true intimacy and equality. Second, although some of Brown's acts strike present-day observers as barbaric, these acts of violence were "ultimately noble," because they were necessary to promote the cause of human liberty. The strengths of Reynolds's book include its wealth of detail, its skillful synthesis of recent scholarship, and its fascinating digressions into such subjects as the Transcendentalists' attitude toward violence and New Englanders' shifting views of Oliver Cromwell. The book is less successful in explicating Brown's religious beliefs, his personal psychology, the ambiguities of his relations with African Americans, and the links between his raid and the coming of the Civil War. Born in rural Connecticut in 1800 to a deeply religious family, Brown grew up in northeastern Ohio's staunchly antislavery Western Reserve. He had little formal education and his personal life was filled with misfortune. He lost his mother when he was eight and his first wife died in childbirth. Of his twenty offspring, only eleven survived childhood. His business life was marked by failure. He experienced many of the vicissitudes of America's emerging market economy, working as a surveyor, tanner, farmer, shepherd, cattle merchant, horse trader, land speculator, and wool broker. He experienced at least fifteen business failures, and was the target of at least twenty-one lawsuits – losing ten – and in at least one instance, he misappropriated funds. It was not until 1855, when he was in his mid-fifties, that Brown became a central figure in the antislavery cause.
Among the key issues raised by Brown's life is why he alone among leading Northern abolitionists chose violence as the way to end slavery. The answer lies in Brown's intense religiosity, which was rooted in the "New Divinity" of rural New England, a religion harshly critical of materialism, commercialism, and the relentless pursuit of profit. To many proponents of the New Divinity, slavery epitomized society's obsession with untrammeled self-interest. Brown's religious upbringing not only taught him to hate slavery, it also contributed to his moral absolutism, his messianic self-image, and his embrace of the example of the Old Testament prophets and of an earlier warrior for the Lord, Oliver Cromwell, who led the overthrow of the English monarchy during the English Civil War. The biblical passage that best summed up Brown's religious ideas is "…without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin" (Hebrews 9:22). Another fundamental issue that Brown's life presents is his commitment to racial equality. Brown hated slavery from an early age and by his twenties had helped at least one fugitive along the Underground Railroad. During the 1830s, he considered various ways of helping African Americans, including establishing a school, and in the 1840s, he came into close contact with Frederick Douglass and moved to the Adirondacks to assist a colony of free black farmers who had received land from the wealthy abolitionist Gerrit Smith. In 1851, he responded to the Fugitive Slave Law by organizing, in Springfield, Massachusetts, "The League of Gileadites," a group formed to resist slave catchers and assist runaways to escape to Canada. There is no doubt that Brown achieved a degree of intimacy with blacks that was extraordinarily rare for his era. Douglass later described Brown as the only white person he knew without racial prejudice. Yet it remains unclear if Brown was the true racial egalitarian that Reynolds claims he was. A "self-appointed savior" (in David Potter's sardonic phrase), Brown took virtually no advice from African Americans (with the notable exception of Douglass) and named no blacks to serve as lieutenants when he launched his raid on Harper's Ferry. In fact, the paternalism of his age runs through Brown's relations with blacks. It was not until the mid-1850s that Brown committed himself to overthrowing slavery by force. What were the factors that transformed Brown, already in his fifties, into an uncompromising agitator for slavery's abolition? The answer lies in the convergence of personal and political factors, including a series of personal misfortunes, frustrations, and tragedies that culminated in the early 1850s. In the early 1840s, Brown was declared bankrupt, evicted from his farm, and lost four children to dysentery in a single month. Later in the '40s and the early '50s, his troubles continued. Brown was separated from his family for prolonged periods of time, he lost another child (the result of scalding), several sons abandoned their religious faith, and bitter litigation swirled around his business ventures. Meanwhile, the political crisis over slavery intensified as a result of the Mexican War, enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law, and passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. After a prolonged period of vacillation, Brown decided to forsake the material world, largely abandoning his farm, his business ventures, and even his wife. He joined several of his sons in Kansas and dedicated his remaining years to slavery's overthrow. How in today's age of terrorist violence committed in the name of God should we evaluate Brown's actions? The massacre at Pottawatomie Creek presents the
greatest challenge for Brown's sympathizers. Arguing that Brown's actions were explicable, if not defensible, Reynolds contends that the murders were designed to terrify the pro-slavery forces and make it clear that antislavery Kansas would not remain passive in the face of insults and threats. By placing the killings in the context of their times – which witnessed the murders of five antislavery Kansans, the burning and pillaging of Lawrence, Kansas by "border ruffians" from Missouri, and the caning of Senator Charles Sumner in the U.S. capitol – Reynolds seeks to diminish Brown's guilt. There can be no doubt that mob violence was common in the mid-1850s, and not only in Kansas. Reynolds might well have situated the violence in Kansas in an even broader context. Election-day riots in 1854 left eight dead in Baltimore and ten dead in St. Louis; twenty reportedly died in an 1855 riot in Louisville; and the 1857 Mountain Meadows massacre in southern Utah resulted in the killing of approximately 120 members of a wagon train by a Mormon militia and Paiute Indians. Yet while it is helpful to contextualize the Pottawatomie Creek killings, Reynolds should have made it clear that the massacre and the mutilation of the corpses certainly worsened the situation in "Bleeding Kansas," igniting the conflict's most violent phase, which ultimately left about fifty-five settlers dead. Perhaps the most significant question raised by Brown's life involves the impact of his Harpers Ferry raid on the coming of the Civil War. Here it is essential to distinguish between the raid itself and the way it was interpreted. The raid itself was poorly planned and executed. Brown succeeded in attracting only twenty-one followers, far fewer than the fifty or one hundred he had hoped for. He made no effort to communicate with slaves in the Harpers Ferry area before the raid. He and his men carried no provisions when they attacked the federal arsenal. Brown failed to destroy a stash of documents incriminating his supporters. In the end, his indecisiveness and procrastination during the raid resulted in the deaths of ten of his supporters and the capture and hanging of six others. Had Brown died in the attack, he might well have been dismissed as an incompetent fanatic. At first, Brown was widely denounced in the North as a murderer, criminal, and madman, leading conservative unionists to feel confident that his actions would unite the nation against extremists, South and North. But during the forty-five days between his capture and execution, he was transformed, in the eyes of thousands of Northerners, from a brutal terrorist into a prophet and avenging angel. The deification of Brown as a heroic martyr outraged many white Southerners, who felt that Brown expressed the North's secret will: to foment race war in the South. Brown himself played a crucial role in reshaping his public image. His calm demeanor and fierce commitment to the antislavery cause persuaded many that he was a Christ-like martyr, not a murderer or traitor. He was helped by abolitionists (who believed that his execution would do more for the antislavery cause than his acquittal or rescue), editorialists, eulogists, and speechmakers, as well as members of the clergy like the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, and poets and writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Even Abraham Lincoln, who condemned Brown for committing "violence, bloodshed, and treason," also applauded the old man's motives and lauded his "great courage" and "rare unselfishness." Meanwhile, Southern fire-eaters insisted that Brown's raid was rooted in the Republican Party's rhetoric about a "higher law" and an "irrepressible
conflict." This argument was so successful that the Republican Party wrote off the South during the 1860 election. Was Brown mentally ill? In a bid to spare their client from the gallows, Brown's attorneys gathered nineteen affidavits testifying to insanity in Brown's immediate family. Certainly not, says Reynolds. In fact, the real-life Brown was considered enigmatic by many who knew him personally. He could be stubborn, selfish, cold, arbitrary, intolerant, and vindictive. Yet he could also be loving, compassionate, and tender-hearted. There is also no doubt that he exhibited certain signs of mental abnormality, including sudden mood swings, an inflated notion of his military skills, and, above all, an obsessive fury over the institution of slavery. Of course, at a time when many Americans accepted slavery as an inevitable part of the social order, a degree of mental abnormality may have been necessary to recognize slavery's evil. John Brown's prophetic truth was that slavery could not be purged from America except with blood. In a 1949 essay, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. rejected the notion that Civil War was a "repressible conflict" caused by fanatics and blundering politicians. Writing in the wake of World War II, he argued that there are times when a society works itself "into a logjam; and that logjam must be burst by violence." By the mid1850s, it was apparent that moral suasion and political institutions had failed to place slavery on the road to extinction. The nation had reached an increasingly violent impasse. Antislavery crowds sought to prevent slave catchers from transporting fugitives back to the South. "Bleeding Kansas" had revealed that popular sovereignty offered an illusory solution to the problem of slavery in the Western territories. The Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision eliminated possible compromise solutions to the westward expansion of slavery. Ultimately, slavery could only be ended by force of arms.
Suggested Abolition Sources: John Brown
Courtesy of History Now: http://historynow.org/09_2005/ask2g.html Assumption College offers a dandy page on print and Internet sources for "Bleeding Kansas": http://www.assumption.edu/ahc/ Kansas/default.html And this Public Broadcasting System (PBS) website on Africans in America has information on "Bleeding Kansas": http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/ part4/4p2952.html Here are full citations for some of the most recent books on John Brown:
Finkelman, Paul, ed. His Soul Goes Marching On: Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995). An excellent collection of essays on various aspects of Brown's life and place in history. Peterson, Merrill D. John Brown, The Legend Revisited (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002). Reynolds, David S. John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005). Rossbach, Jeffery S. Ambivalent Conspirators: John Brown, the Secret Six, and a Theory of Slave Violence (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982). Toledo, Gregory. The Hanging of Old Brown: A Story of Slaves, Statesmen, and Redemption (Westport, CT.: Praeger, 2002). A good website for topics covered in Professor Mintz's essay is WGBH's site for the "American Experience" special, "John Brown's Holy War": http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/brown/ As usual, the University of Virginia contributes an excellent Web resource in its John Brown site: http://www3.iath.virginia.edu/jbrown/master.html The early biographies of Brown to which Professor Mintz alludes are: Malin, James Claude. John Brown and the Legend of Fifty-Six (Philadelphia, The American Philosophical Society, 1942. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. XVII). Redpath, James. Echoes of Harper's Ferry. (Boston: Thayer and Eldridge, 1860). Redpath, James. The Public Life of Capt. John Brown (Boston: Thayer and Eldridge, 1860). Sanborn, F. B. Memoirs of John Brown (Concord, MA: 1878). Villard, Oswald Garrison. John Brown, 1800-1859: A Biography Fifty Years After (Gloucester, MA:, P. Smith, 1965). A reprint of Villard's 1910 book. And the article by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. that Professor Mintz refers to is "The Causes of the Civil War: A Note on Historical Sentimentalism," in the October 1949 Partisan Review. Herbert Aptheker's views on Brown can be found in his introduction to this reprint: Du Bois, W. E. B. John Brown. (Millwood, N.Y.: Kraus-Thomson Organization, 1973). Other topics relating to John Brown:
For Brown's relations with African Americans, see: Quarles, Benjamin. Allies for Freedom: Blacks and John Brown (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974). On Gerrit Smith, you might like to read: Harlow, Ralph Volney. Gerrit Smith, Philanthropist and Reformer (New York: H.Holt and Company, 1939). This Gerrit Smith website is first-rate: http://www.nyhistory.com/gerritsmith/harpers.htm The issues created by the Fugitive Slave Law and resistance to the statute are covered in: Campbell, Stanley W. The Slave Catcher: Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970). For Brown and the Transcendentalists, see: Gougeon, Len. Virtue's Hero: Emerson, Antislavery, and Reform (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990). Thoreau, Henry David. Political Writings. Nancy L. Rosenblum, ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996). Lloyd Benson provides a lively and useful collection of contemporary writings on the Sumner affair in: The Caning of Senator Sumner (Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2004). These studies give excellent background on the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the ensuing campaigns in "Bleeding Kansas": Etcheson, Nicole. Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004). Rawley, James A. Race and Politics: "Bleeding Kansas" and the Coming of the Civil War (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1969). This reprint of a nineteenth-century compilation of Brown's trial records may be convenient: The Life, Trial, and Execution of Captain John Brown, Known as "Old Brown of Ossawatomie." Compiled from Official and Authentic Sources (New York: Da Capo Press, 1969).
The website for the Kennedy Farmhouse, from which Brown launched his raid on Harpers Ferry, has some useful material - especially in its sketches of the lives of the members of Brown's party: http://www.johnbrown.org/ The National Park Service website for Harpers Ferry provides good background on the site of the raid: http://www.nps.gov/hafe/ This PBS site has useful visual materials on the Harpers Ferry raid: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2940.html
Hint: The next page gives us a connection to tomorrow.
Primary Source Activity: North American Slavery in Comparative Perspective: Address of John Brown to the Virginia Court [12/1859]
by Michael A. Vieira Bishop Connolly High School, Fall River, MA Gilder Lehrman Document GLC 05508.051 http://www.gilderlehrman.org/search/display_results.php?id=GLC05508.051 (This is the direct link to find the original information posted online by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History about this document transcript.) Historical Background: On October 16, 1859, John Brown led a party of approximately 21 men into Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Encountering no resistance, Brown’s men seized the federal arsenal, an armory, and a rifle works. Brown then sent out several detachments to round up hostages and liberate slaves. As news of the raid spread, angry townspeople and local militia companies cut off Brown’s escape routes and trapped his men in the armory. Two days later, U.S. Marines led by Colonel Robert E. Lee arrived at Harper's Ferry. The marines stormed the arsenal. Five of Brown’s party escaped, ten were killed, and seven, including Brown, were taken as prisoner. A week later, Brown was put on trial in Virginia court, even though his attack had occurred on federal property. He was found guilty of treason, conspiracy, and murder, and was sentenced to die on the gallows. The trial's high point came at the end when Brown was allowed to make a five-minute speech, which helped convince many Northerners that Brown was a martyr to the cause of freedom. Primary Source: I have, may it please the Court, a few words to say. In the first place, I deny every thing but what I have already admitted, of a design on my part to free Slaves. I intended certainly, to have made a clean thing of that matter, as I did last winter, when I went into Missouri, and there took Salves, without the snapping of a gun on either side, moving then through the country, and finally leaving them in Canada. I was desired to have dome the same thing again, on a much larger scale. That was all I intended. I never did intend murder, or treason, or destruction of property, or to excite or incite Slaves to rebellion, or to make insurrection. I have another objection, and that is, that it is unjust that I should suffer such a penalty.
Had I interfered in the manner, and which I admit has fairly proved, for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of the witnesses who have testified in this case – had I interfered in behalf of the Rich, the Powerful, the Intelligent, the socalled Great, or in behalf of any friends, either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right. Every man in this Court would have deemed it an act worthy a reward, rather than punishment. Now if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice and MINGLE MY BLOOD FURTHER WITH THE BLOOD OF MY CHILDREN, and with the blood of millions in slave country whose rights are disregarded By the wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments – I summit; so LET IT BE DONE. Questions: 1. Describe the tone of John Brown’s Address to the Virginia Court.
2. What does Brown admit to? What does he deny?
3. Why was he tried in a Virginia Court and not a federal court?
4. Are Brown’s actions at Harper’s Ferry justified? Explain your viewpoint.
5. Was Brown a martyr to the cause of freedom or a domestic terrorist? Explain your view.
Background Information on Abolition: Guided Readings: The Origins and Nature of New World Slavery 1600-1860 Abolition As late as 1750, no church condemned slave ownership or slave trading. Britain, Denmark, France, Holland, Portugal, and Spain all openly participated in the slave trade. Beginning with the Quakers in the late 1750s, however, organized opposition to slavery quickly grew. In 1787, the Northwest Ordinance barred slavery from the territories north of the Ohio River; by 1804, the nine states north of Delaware had freed slaves or adopted gradual emancipation plans. In Haiti in 1791, nearly a half million slaves emancipated themselves by insurrection and revolutionary struggle. In 1807, Britain and the United States outlawed the African slave trade. The wars of national liberation in Spanish America ended slavery in Spain's mainland New World empire. In 1821, the region that now includes Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela adopted a gradual emancipation plan. Two years later, Chile agreed to emancipate its slaves. In 1829, Mexico abolished slavery. In 1833, Britain emancipated 780,000 slaves, paying 20 million pounds sterling compensation to their owners. In 1848, Denmark and France freed slaves in their colonial empires. Slavery survived in Surinam and other Dutch New World colonies until 1863 and in the United States in 1865. The last New World slaves were emancipated in Cuba in 1886 and in Brazil in 1888. Within the span of a century and a half, slavery came to be seen as a violation of Christian morality and the natural, inalienable rights of man. The main impetus behind antislavery came from religion. New religious and humanitarian values contributed to a view of slavery as "the sum of all villainies," a satanic institution that gave rise to every imaginable sin: violence, despotism, racial prejudice, and sexual corruption. Initially, many opponents of slavery supported "colonization"--the deportation of black Americans to Africa, the Caribbean, or Central America. But by the late 1820s, it was obvious that colonization was a wholly impractical solution to the problem of slavery. Each year the nation's slave population rose by 50,000, but in 1830, the American Colonization Society persuaded just 259 free blacks to migrate to Liberia, bringing the total number of blacks colonized in Africa to just 1,400. African Americans were the first to denounce colonization as an effort to cleanse the United States of its black population. In 1829, a 25-year-old white Bostonian named William Lloyd Garrison demanded "immediate emancipation" of slaves without compensation to their owners. Within six years, 200 antislavery societies had sprouted up in the North, and had mounted a massive propaganda campaign against slavery. The growth of militant abolitionism provoked a harsh public reaction. Mobs led by "gentlemen of property and standing" attacked the homes and businesses of
abolitionist merchants, destroyed abolitionist printing presses, attacked black neighborhoods, and murdered the Reverend Elijah P. Lovejoy, the editor of an abolitionist newspaper. In the face of vicious attacks, the antislavery movement divided over questions of strategy and tactics. Radicals, led by Garrison, began to attack all forms of inequality and violence in American society, withdrew from churches that condoned slavery, demanded equal rights for women, and called for voluntary dissolution of the Union. Other abolitionists turned to politics as the most promising way to end slavery, helping to form the Liberty Party in 1840, the Free Soil party in 1848, and the Republican party in 1854. By the late 1850s, a growing number of northerners were convinced that slavery posed an intolerable threat to free labor and civil liberties. Many believed that an aggressive Slave Power had seized control of the federal government, incited revolution in Texas and war with Mexico, and was engaged in a systematic plan to extend slavery into the western territories. John Brown's raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in October 1859 produced shock waves throughout the South, producing fears of slave revolt and race war. When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, many white southerners were convinced that this represented the triumph of abolitionism in the North and thought they had no choice but to secede from the Union. The new president, however, was passionately committed to the preservation of the union, and peaceful secession proved to be impossible. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Underline and/or take some notes on the most important information presented in the historical background information above.
Courtesy of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History [http://www.gilderlehrman.org/teachers/module7/intro_pop24.html] John Brown Letter to 2nd Wife, Mary Ann Brown [1856/04/24] Gilder Lehrman Document Number: GLC00929.01 Title: to Mary Ann Brown Author: Brown, John (1800-1859) Year: 1856/04/24 Place: Osawatomie, Kansas Description: Defeat of a pro-slavery judge. Recounts story of "one of the most deeply exciting times..since our arrival in the territory. A United States Judge came here & attempted to hold a Court, & to enforce the enactment of the Bogus Legislature but was most effectively routed." The laws the court was attempting to enforce made it a crime to oppose slavery in any way, ever verbally. Brown and other anti-slavery men drove the judge away and prevented them from enforcing these laws. Also discusses family health and says her brother, Orson Day, and his family have just arrived. Written at "Brown's Station."
Full Text: Brown Station, Kansas Territory 24th April /56 Dear Wife I have Just received your most welcome letter of the 1st inst for which I am greatly obliged. I have felt very uncomfortable about you all since I learned that you were becoming so destitute but I trust you have all been made a little more comfortable before this time; as I can hardly doubt but the two small Drafts have reached you. We are all stout but Jason & Fredk, & they able to do considerable. Your Brother Orson Day& family reached here yesterday all well after a passage of Two Weeks from Pa. They seem highly pleased with their new Home: & left friends in Pa all well. Yesterday terminated one of the most deeply exciting times we have had since our arival in the territory. A United States Judge [inserted: came here &] attempted to hold a Court, & to enforce the enactments of the Bogus Legislature but was most effectually routed. Suffise it to say now that we expected a most bloody affair; but the Court & the pro Slavery men entirely & completly backed out; & broke up on the
morning of the 3d day without doing any thing. Will try to send you a full account soon. I now enclose a New York Draft for $50, payable to Watson. of the proceeds Thirty Dollars $30 are sent by Henry to Ruth [inserted: to be used] as she shall judge best. The remaining Twenty $20, are for you & Watson to use in making all comfortable as you can. How soon I can send you any more I cannot now tell; as we here are midling hard up as people say. I want you to write at once or I may not get your answer.  as we can hardly tell where we shall [inserted: be] after a little. At any rate keep writing until you are directed to send somewhere else. May God Allmighty bless & save you all. Your Affectionate Husband John Brown
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