John Brown - the Man Who Died for the Freedom of Slaves

John Brown was an important figure in the anti-slavery movement in America. He helped slaves for most of his life, even dying for them at the end of his life. Brown fought for the slaves that could not fight for themselves. He believed that slavery was unjust and dehumanizing and should be outlawed in every state. Brown wanted freedom for all and with the threat of slavery expanding to more states and west, he brought the fighting to slavery.

John Brown’s early life played a very significant factor in his political views later in his life. Brown was born May 9, 1800, in Torrington Connecticut to his mother Ruth Mills Brown, and his father, Owen Brown. When Brown was five, he moved to northern Ohio where he would spend most of his early life. The area was known for its anti-slavery community which lived there. Where Brown and his family had moved to was a stop for the underground railroad and his father, who was also extremely opposed to slavery, became active in the railroad, later making his home a safe house for slaves on their way to freedom. “As a 12-year-old boy traveling through Michigan, Brown witnessed an enslaved African American boy being beaten, which haunted him for years to come and informed his own abolitionism.” Witnessing this event in Brown’s young life likely contributed to his later anti-slavery views. His childhood was also filled with his father’s work in the abolitionist movements and his anti-slavery views. His childhood played a crucial role in Brown becoming an abolitionist later in his life.

Brown would then leave to pursue an education and was appointed a congregational minister. After this, he returned back to Ohio where he opened a business and married for the first time and would start his large family. Brown started to have financial problems and after the loss of his wife and two of his children, he decided to move his business and children. He would stay in Ohio but financial problems persisted and later remarried to his second wife. Later he would get a business partner in Massachusetts and moved there in hopes of financial success. Although he found some business success, Brown would get deeply enthralled in the abolitionist community that was there. This community is what likely made Brown the devout abolitionist he was later seen as.

In his adulthood, Brown did many things that would reinforce his views on slavery and politics. With his participation in the underground railroad, giving land to freed slaves, and his help in teaching freed slaves how to farm among other things. In 1855, Brown and five of his son would go to Kansas and lead the anti-slavery resistance there. After an attack, Brown went to a proslavery town where he would kill five of the townspeople. He would stay in the mid-west for the remained of the year fighting in Kansas and Missouri before returning back the east. When he returned he wanted to start the planning of the war slavery in the state of Virginia. The attack he planned was to secure the federal armory at Harper Ferry. Brown led twenty-one men, 16 white men, and 5 black men, on the attack, and almost all of Brown’s attacking force had either died or been captured. The attack only lasted 36 hours before Robert E. Lee came in the destroy the resistance. Brown was not killed when the army came instead he stood trial for treason, murder, insurrection. Brown addressed the count before he was executed and said: “…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 this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments--I submit; so let it be done!”  After this, he was executed by hanging and December 2, 1859.

John Brown resonated and valued the abolitionist view on politics. He believed that slavery was unjust, dehumanizing, and should be dismantled. He believed that everyone was equal and that slaves were dismissed as people. Brown had wanted to put an end to slavery without the need of violence but was prepared to do whatever he had to in order to see it was gone. Brown had spent all of his life around the abolitionist mindset and it reflected in his political view. His political views were anti-slavery and with the legislation, such as the Fugitive Slave Act, that was passed at the time, it was clear to him that the government was controlled by the proslavery. The Kansas-Nebraska act was when Brown, along with many abolitionists, knew they had to fight the proslavery government. Brown would go to Kansas and fight for the slaves that could not fight for themselves and started the war against slavery. The Kansas-Nebraska act would be a breaking point for Brown when he finally decided to take up arms and fight the power. Brown did not want slavery in any of the states and he did not want the expansion of slavery into more states.

Brown would have been extremely against the Kansas-Nebraska act. The main reason is that he wanted to abolish slavery in every state. He believed that everyone should be equal and because of the unjust treatment of slaves, he wanted slavery outlawed. The idea of slavery spreading to more states and the west made Brown opposed to the act. He was willing to die so that slavery could not expand. When he attacked Harper Ferry it was a wake-up call to the country to take action against slavery. Growing up he saw what his father did to help slaves and in his own life worked to help slaves and this act went against everything he and his father and so many others did.

John Brown knew that slavery had to be abolished and he did everything he could in order to see it through. Brown had been working to help slaves almost his whole life and it would have all been all for nothing if slavery spread west and created more slave states. He wanted to show the country and other abolitionists that they could put an end to slavery. Ultmently died fighting for what he believed in and the slaves that had been treated so unjustly. He wanted slavery abolished and he was willing to do anything in order to keep it from spreading any further.

Works Cited

  • “John Brown.”, A&E Networks Television, 9 Apr. 2020,
  • Editors. “John Brown.”, A&E Television Networks, 27 Oct. 2009,
  • “John Brown.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service,
  • “John Brown.” American Battlefield Trust, 25 Mar. 2019,
  • Bordewich, Fergus M. “John Brown's Day of Reckoning.”, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Oct. 2009, Digital History,  
07 July 2022
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