Series: Remembering John Brown

John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry was perceived by everyone in different ways. Some people looked at John Brown as a hero or Christ-like martyr willing to risk and sacrifice everything in order to end slavery. Others looked at Brown as a lunatic, a violent terrorist, or someone who took the fight for abolition too far. In this series, National Park Service staff from across the country examine ways Americans processed and remembered Brown's actions throughout history.

  • Article 1: To Secede or Not To Secede: John Brown and the Election of 1860

    Political Cartoon - four Presidential candidates tearing up a map of the United States.

    As the election of 1860 came and went, citizens across the United States were still grappling with the effects of John Brown's raid, which took place only one year prior. People active in the political arena used the controversy around Brown's actions to their advantage, and used public perceptions of Brown to explain what was at stake in the election. Read more

  • Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

    Article 2: Harpers Ferry Armed to the Teeth

    Scan of bylaws from Harpers Ferry Armory Guard

    For the citizens of Harpers Ferry, John Brown's raid shifted their perception of normalcy. After what many perceived as a terrifying experience, the people of the town felt as if they may need to find new ways to protect themselves. Militia companies formed, among them the "Armory Guard," composed of employees of the Harpers Ferry Armory. The townspeople found pride in these new militias and celebrated their actions. Read more

  • Article 3: Fifty Years Later: Remembering John Brown at Faneuil Hall

    Text reads

    Fifty Years after Brown's execution, people came to Faneuil Hall to remember the actions of the controversial abolitionist. As time passed - people still found themselves inspired by Brown to make changes in the world they lived in. Read more

  • Article 4: “An Inspiration of All Men”: Remembering John “Osawatomie” Brown in Kansas

    Sepia toned photograph of a group of men surrounding an obelisk shaped monument.

    On the 21st anniversary of the Battle of Osawatomie, a monument was dedicated in John Brown's honor. Nearly twenty years after his execution, many individuals used the monument's dedication as an opportunity to remember Brown as a hero. Yet, Brown's legacy still remained complicated. Listing Image courtesy of Boyd B. Stutler Collection, West Virginia State Archives Read more