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John Brown (1800-1859) was a man determined to fight against slavery. His way of fighting manifested throughout his life through armed struggle, financial support and donation of land for slaves, despite the economic troubles that he had with his family. One of the most important events in the history associated with John Brown was the raid on Harpers Ferry. This event occurred in 1859 and was an attempt to start an armed slave commotion by seizing a US arsenal at Harpers Ferry in Virginia. In my point of view John Brown was a hero because he was active in the fight against slavery at a time when most people were in favor (in 1790 the state of Virginia reported about 300,000 slaves1. By 1860, 75% of white families owned more than 1 slave2).
Many people, including me, believe he is a martyr/hero because he was willing to risk his life for the cause of ending slavery in the U.S. He placed his life in danger to help slaves in many occasions like the attack on Harpers Ferry, where he and 21 other men tried to liberate and arming the slaves. Brown believed that these armed slaves would then join his army and free even more slaves3. At that time Brown was arrested and tried for treason, to be finally sentenced to death by hanging. The fact that he was willing to die, and in fact so happened, makes him a Hero in my point of view. A reason why I believe he is a hero is because at the time he did not have much more choice than the use of violence3, even though I think his ways of giving his ideas to people might not have been the best. We have to keep in mind that it was not until the mid-1850s that Brown committed himself to overthrowing slavery by force. Before that, he attempted to use reason, donating land, economic support to the cause, among other nonviolent tools. According to Mintz “factors associated with this change in attitude could be related to a convergence of personal and political factors, including a series of personal misfortunes, frustrations, and tragedies.. Meanwhile, the political crisis over slavery intensified and after a prolonged period of vacillation, Brown decided to forsake the material world, largely abandoning his farm, his business ventures, and even his wife”3.
Another reason why I think that John Brown can be considered a hero is that he participated in the creation of an anti-slavery movement that transcended life and death, transforming into a benchmark for all people who believed that slavery should be abolished in the country. In 907 Eugene Debs wrote, “of all the abolitionists Brown seemed the “spirit incarnate” of revolution”4.
Many people consider John Brown a terrorist due to his extreme use of violence. His inability to cope with the suffering of others drove him to the contradictory behavior of inflicting pain to stop pain. Many people believed that a lot of his killing was pointless, and I understand this point of view, but I also believe it was pretty much the only way back at that time to let people know what he was doing, to make himself known for his cause, and to bring hope to people who were still suffering slavery. Some even branded him as the “first America´s terrorist” due to the terror that people were being attacked by him and his “army”5. There is a current that argues that John Brown was mentally ill, as he claimed to have been sent by God to end slavery, which would explain in a way that used violence3. I agree that his behavior at the moment was extreme we must keep in mind that the benefits in the long run were greater.
In conclusion, I think John Brown was a hero because he was convinced that slavery was wrong and fought with all the resources they had at hand to make it disappear, leaving behind a legacy that continued fighting until slavery was finally abolished in America.
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