John Brown

Revolutionary Abolitionist
Born May 9, 1800

John Brown was an American revolutionary abolitionist, who in the 1850s advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to abolish slavery in the United States. He led the Pottawatomie Massacre, during which four men were killed, in 1856 in Bleeding Kansas, and made his name in the unsuccessful raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859. Later that year he was executed but his speeches at the trial captured national attention.… Read More

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Learn about the memorable moments in the evolution of John Brown.


1800 Birth John Brown was born May 9, 1800, in Torrington, Connecticut. … Read More
1805 5 Years Old In 1805, the family moved to Hudson, Ohio, where Owen Brown opened a tannery. … Read More


1820 20 Years Old In 1820, Brown married Dianthe Lusk. … Read More
1825 25 Years Old In 1825, Brown and his family moved to New Richmond, Pennsylvania, where he bought of land. … Read More


1833 33 Years Old On June 14, 1833, Brown married 16-year-old Mary Ann Day (April 15, 1817 – May 1, 1884), originally from Washington County, New York. … Read More
1836 36 Years Old In 1836, Brown moved his family to Franklin Mills, Ohio (now known as Kent). … Read More
1837 37 Years Old In 1837, in response to the murder of Elijah P. Lovejoy, Brown publicly vowed: "Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery!" Brown was declared bankrupt by a federal court on September 28, 1842. … Read More
1839 39 Years Old He suffered great financial losses in the economic crisis of 1839, which struck the western states more severely than had the Panic of 1837. … Read More


1844 44 Years Old Two years before Brown's arrival in Springfield, in 1844, the city's African-American abolitionists had founded the Sanford Street "Free Church" – now known as St. John's Congregational Church – which went on to become one of the United States most prominent platforms for abolitionist speeches.
1846 46 Years Old From 1846 until he left Springfield in 1850, John Brown was a parishioner at the Free Church, where he witnessed abolitionist lectures by Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. … Read More
1847 47 Years Old In 1847, after speaking at the "Free Church", abolitionist Frederick Douglass spent a night speaking with Brown, after which he wrote, "From this night spent with John Brown in Springfield, Mass. 1847 while I continued to write and speak against slavery, I became all the same less hopeful for its peaceful abolition. … Read More
1849 49 Years Old With this misfortune, the Perkins and Brown wool commission operation closed in Springfield in late 1849. … Read More


Before Brown left Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1850, the United States passed the notorious Fugitive Slave Act, a law which mandated that authorities in free states aid in the return of escaped slaves and imposed penalties on those who aided in their escape. … Read More
1854 54 Years Old Some popular narrators have exaggerated the unfortunate demise of Brown and Perkins' wool commission in Springfield with Brown's later life choices. In actuality, Perkins absorbed much of the financial loss, and their partnership continued for several more years, with Brown nearly breaking even by 1854. … Read More
1855 55 Years Old 1 More Event
In 1855, Brown learned from his adult sons in the Kansas territory that their families were completely unprepared to face attack, and that pro-slavery forces there were militant. … Read More
…  What we need is action—action!" During the Kansas campaign, he and his supporters killed five pro-slavery supporters in what became known as the Pottawatomie massacre in May 1856 in response to the sacking of Lawrence, Kansas by pro-slavery forces.
1858 58 Years Old As the October elections saw a free-state victory, Kansas was quiet. Brown made his men return to Iowa, where he fed them tidbits of his Virginia scheme. In January 1858, Brown left his men in Springdale, Iowa, and set off to visit Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York. … Read More
…  In 1859, Brown led an unsuccessful raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry that ended with the multi-racial group's capture. … Read More
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