John Brown was Hung on December 2

This is the day they hung John Brown for his failed raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.

As one history website puts it:

In the mid-1850s, abolitionist John Brown went to Kansas Territory to fight against the spread of slavery. Then in 1859, he came east to Virginia, hoping to liberate slaves. On October 16, he and a small group of militants seized the federal armory in Harper’s Ferry and its weapons, but waited in vain for the uprising they hoped would follow. The next day, U.S. Army officers Robert E. Lee and J. E. B. Stuart brought in a company of marines and stormed the fire-engine house where Brown had retreated. They captured him and his band, and killed two of his sons. Brown was hanged, along with six other conspirators. In death he became a martyr for abolitionists. “I am worth inconceivably more to hang,” he said, “than for any other purpose.”

His little band had both white and black conspirators, and significant financial support from white and black abolitionists. Still, not only did white conservatives react negatively and in the extreme to his raid after it happened, but some African American leaders also feared it would make things worse for the abolition cause — and that Brown as a white man had ignored black dissenting voices on the matter. There was much discussion over the issue of black people needing black, not white, leaders of resistance to their racial oppression.


  1. Blaque Swan, previously No1KState

    I do have great respect for John Brown. Or at least great appreciation for his zeal and fearlessness. Don’t doubt that. But I am on the side of encouraging black, not white, leaders of black resistance. Honestly, and this could be a consequence of high school US history’s portrayal of Brown as a bit demented, but I do wonder if there weren’t better options. I doubt they would’ve been able to free all slaves via the underground railroad. At the same time, maybe they could’ve used it until the number of combatants, both black and white, reached critical mass.

    And while I’ve got the ear of a few white people, let me ask you something: do you guys know people who go so far as Rep. King in arguing that reparations for slavery would be unfair not just because there was the War (that argument’s not new to me) but because there were no reparations for white casualties? Do people really believe that? And since we’re on the subject of recent ass’o’nine (asinine) statements, about Limbaugh assertion that First Nations aren’t owed reparations because of all the people who’ve died of diseases brought on my smoking – people really go for that?

    The thing though is, I can understand black hesitance to raid a federal arsenal. The overreaction to a large group of blacks taking Harper’s Ferry would’ve been something akin to the overreaction to terror. Actually, it would’ve been considered an act of terror, right? A slave attack on the nation is quite different from a slave revolt against the local white community. US African slaves just didn’t have the demographic numbers in our favor like, say, the black to white ratio of Jamaica. If the ratio had been 15:1, and in some areas 20:1, black to white, Harper’s Ferry wouldn’t have been the only arsenal we would’ve taken. As it was, the numbers in the South was 1 black for every 5 whites. Not bad for urban or mountain, or jungle guerrilla warfare; not great for rural foothills.

    That’s why, I imagine, so many blacks actually disapproved of the raid. It’s not just slaveholders and pro-slavery advocates who would’ve gone bat crazy, so-called moderates would’ve been scared witless as well. The same way Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and others were criticized by whites and in white media for advocating even armed self-defense; abolitionists would’ve been criticized, and blacks, even in Texas, would’ve faced the hellish backlash.

  2. Joe

    Blaque Swan, very sage comments, thanks. Brown was not at all crazy, that is just white mythology, the usual PR to put down those who fight for justice, black and white.

    King is also an example of that. He is the front man in the neo-Nazi-like propaganda campaign against reparations for all the damage done. I have never heard that weird stuff you mention. He is known for other wild comments, comments that would get most people put in straightjackets. Odd how much leewy white nuts get in this society. The estimates of the current worth of just the labor stolen from Black workers under slavery and segregation is somewhere between one and 90 trillion, depending on how you figure the interest on the wage losses. And that of course does not include the intangible costs of suffering and pain — not to mention the very tangible costs of early death for many. This is damage so extreme for whites that they/we just cannot confront it and the very necessary reparations– especially give the white racial frame’s accent on white goodness and virtue.

    Black views of Brown historically are much like yours –great respect (Blacks sang about Brown in the Battle Hymn of the Republic, loudly, probably the most aggressively of Union troops) and some leaders fearing the possible ‘bat crazy’ white responses you mention. Still, the great Frederick Douglass was a key background backer and funder…. The also great Martin Delaney met with Brown, as co-leader, at the Chatham Canada convention that came up with a new anti-slavery constitution for the rebels led by Brownmixed views.

    How about running for president, we sure need you:))

    • Blaque Swan, previously No1KState

      President? Of what? . . . The United States? The United States of what?

      There’s a scene in Chris Rock’s movie HEAD OF STATE where they’re asking him run for president. It would illustrate exactly how I feel!

  3. Blaque Swan, previously No1KState

    @ Joe – re: Documenting the Costs of Slavery, Segregation, and Contemporary Racism

    Here’s one thing I’ve never been able to wrap my head around: as racism was the reason reparations were denied in the wake of the Civil War, what’s the justification now? Just logically, even if you know nothing of the history between 1865 – present, if you know about slavery, and you know racism prevented the payment of reparations early one; what’s the cause for continual failure to pay except continuing racism?

    Why isn’t this information in the hands of more white US-Americans? Even if we limit the info to state and federal legislators, judges, governors, etc? It just seems to me that even without reading your article, you can make a case for reparations based solely on common sense. I can understand how whites can be wedded to their self-image of goodness and virtue; but, if you’re really all that good and virtuous, why haven’t you paid reparations?

    Plus, I could’ve sworn I had read that when white Americans were asked if they would accept compensation for property stolen from an ancestor over a hundred year ago – the vast majority said yes. (The same number as blacks who support reparations.) But, when asked about reparations to blacks, the vast majority of whites oppose it. (Does that sound familiar to anyone?)

    So really, what’s going on if not more racism?

    • Joe

      Hi, good questions. It seems clear that the white racial frame is still the reason, as whites mostly do not consider themselves responsible for racial inequalities. Plus they accent white virtue, and still hold many negative views of Blacks and others.

      Yes, I think reparations are a matter of common sense, but only if you understand the total costs (trillions) of the stealing of labor from African Americans. We do not teach this history and reality to most Americans at any political or class level. That is a key reason for the opposition.

      • Blaque Swan, previously No1KState

        We do not teach this history and reality to most Americans at any political or class level.

        Welp, that’ll be my first duty as president! LOL!

        No seriously, thanks for your response and encouragement. Correcting public school curriculum has been an interest of mine for several years. As for as being president, I’m not old enough yet. So we’ll have to wait and see! 🙂


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