John Brown, a white, 19th-century abolitionist, was born on this day. He spent much of his adult life fighting slavery. He gave land to escaped slaves, served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and helped establish the League of Gileadites, an organization that sought to protect fugitive slaves from slave catchers. Frederick Douglass said after meeting the abolitionist that even though Brown was white, he “is in sympathy a black man and as deeply interested in our cause, as though his own soul had been pierced with the iron of slavery.”
In 1859, Brown led a group of 21 other men, Black and white, in a raid of the federal arsenal at West Virginia’s Harpers Ferry to arm slaves with weapons in what he hoped would become an insurrection against slavery. Brown was wounded and captured during the raid and ultimately hanged.
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(Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)