Today in History:

John Brown - Saint or Devil?

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Jonathan J. Kaminsky
High School AP World History and History

Objective: Students will be able to see both sides of John Brown’s actions in Kansas and understand why he was loved and hated alike.
 
 
Lesson Plan: Split students into four separate groups and give two of the groups the good John Brown packet and two of the groups that bad insane John Brown packets; do not let the students know there are different packets. Have the students complete the readings and picture analysis. Once they are finished have each group present on John Brown. The groups will obviously disagree and realize that they were given different sets of documents.   Once the students figure this out, give each of the groups the set of documents they did not get the first time and have the work on those. Once you are done the students should have a clear understanding of John Brown.
 
 
 
John Brown                                                                           John Brown
 
 
What type of man do you think John Brown was?
 
 
 
 
 
 
What do you think is John Brown’s occupation?
 
 
 
 
 
 
What do you think John Brown’s biggest accomplishment was?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Essay on John Brown
 
 
John Brown was an abolitionist who was truly a pioneer for racial justice in his day. During a period where Blacks were enslaved, and seen as essentially, speaking animals, John Brown recognized their humanity and dedicated his own life to save his brother and sister in chains. His life was an example of humanity, compassion and justice. From adopting black children to raise as his own, to aiding struggling Black communities, John Brown was a true revolutionary in every sense of the word. However, this was also a man who used violence to achieve goals, and also murdered innocents in his efforts to bring down an unjust system. He remains a controversial figure up to this day. However, by and large, while I do not condone violence, I see his expressions of it as a natural reaction to a cruel and inhumane society.
 
John Brown’s Song
 
John Brown's body lies a-mold'ring in the grave
John Brown's body lies a-mold'ring in the grave
John Brown's body lies a-mold'ring in the grave
His soul goes marching on
 
Glory, Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory, Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory, Glory! Hallelujah!
His soul is marching on
 
He captured Harper's Ferry with his nineteen men so true
He frightened old Virginia till she trembled
     through and through
They hung him for a traitor, themselves the traitor crew
His soul is marching on
 
 
Glory, Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory, Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory, Glory! Hallelujah!
 
His soul is marching on
John Brown died that the slave might be free,
John Brown died that the slave might be free,
John Brown died that the slave might be free,
But his soul is marching on!
 
 
Glory, Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory, Glory! Hallelujah!
 
 
 
Speech Delivered by John Brown
 
I have, may it please the court, a few words to say. In the first place, I deny everything but what I have all along admitted -- the design on my part to free the slaves. I intended certainly to have made a clean thing of that matter, as I did last winter when I went into Missouri and there took slaves without the snapping of a gun on either side, moved them through the country, and finally left them in Canada. I designed to have done the same thing again on a larger scale. That was all I intended. I never did intend murder, or treason, or the destruction of property, or to excite or incite slaves to rebellion, or to make insurrection.
 
I have another objection; and that is, it is unjust that I should suffer such a penalty. Had I interfered in the manner which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proved (for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of the witnesses who have testified in this case)--had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends--either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class--and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.
 
This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to "remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them." I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done--as I have always freely admitted I have done--in behalf of His despised poor was not wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments--I submit; so let it be done!
 
After reading these three different sources what do you know about John Brown? What did he do? Do you believe he was justified in his actions?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
            John Brown                                                                           John Brown
 
 
What type of man do you think John Brown was?
 
 
 
 
 
 
What do you think is John Brown’s occupation?
 
 
 
 
 
 
What do you think John Brown’s biggest accomplishment was?
 
 
  
 
 
Background of John Brown
 
Events of the first half of 1856 radicalized Brown and pointed him toward the incident that changed the terms of the national debate over slavery and remains controversial to this day: the slaughter of proslavery settlers near Pottawatomie, Kansas on May 24, 1856. The first disturbing news of the year came from Washington, when President Franklin Pierce announced his support for the corrupt proslavery legislature in Kansas and proclaimed opposition to it treasonable. (Pierce's action led to the formation of the antislavery Republican Party the following month.) In April, Brown's outspoken attacks on the proslavery legislature led a proslavery judge to issue warrants for the arrest of him and his sons. On May 21, 751 border ruffians and southerners, waving banners proclaiming the supremacy of the white race, swept down on the antislavery town of Lawrence, ransacking the presses of two antislavery presses and burning and looting homes and businesses. Following news of the fall of Lawrence, a friend described Brown as "wild and frenzied." The next day, May 22, South Carolina Senator Preston Brooks took his gold-topped cane and, on the floor of the U. S. Senate, clubbed senseless Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner after he delivered a abolitionist speech, "The Crime Against Kansas." When Brown received word of the caning in Washington, according to his son Jason, "it seemed to be the finishing, decisive touch." Brown told his supporters, "I am entirely tired of hearing that word 'caution.' It is nothing but the word of cowardice."
 
The details of the murders by Brown's band at Pottawatomie are well known. Brown and six others set out from Ottawa Creek on May 23 with rifles, revolvers, and swords heading toward proslavery territory. Around ten o'clock the following night Brown's men, announcing they were from the Northern Army, broke into the home of proslavery activist James Doyle. Doyle and his two older sons were led into the woods near the cabin and hacked to death. The group then headed to the cabin of Allen Wilkinson, a proslavery district attorney. Wilkinson met the same end as the Doyles. A short time later, the fifth and final victim, William Sherman, was taken and killed. Brown directed the killings; he did not, it seems, participate in them. Afterward, he remained unapologetic. "God is my judge," he said. "It was absolutely necessary as a measure of self-defense, and for the defense of others." Pottawatomie changed the way southerners viewed northern abolitionists. No longer did they see them all as toothless pushovers--they began to see them as radical and potentially dangerous.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Accounts of the Family
 
ON the night of Saturday, May 24, 1856, a group of armed men led by Old John Brown appeared among the settlements near Dutch Henry's crossing, where the California road crossed Pottawatomie creek in eastern Kansas. Five of the settlers, James P. Doyle and his two sons William and Drury, Allen Wilkinson, and William Sherman, all Proslavery in their politics, were summoned by the group from their cabins. The next day their mutilated bodies were discovered, lying where they had fallen, murdered in cold blood. [1]
 
Allen Wilkinson was the most prominent of the five victims. He was postmaster for the settlers along the creek, a member of the Kansas territorial legislature and a part-time member of the territory's judicial branch. The following letters, written by a brother-in-law of Allen Wilkinson, Henry James, describe Wilkinson's situation along the creek and the details of his murder. A native of Illinois, James had contemplated moving to Kansas territory. He visited Wilkinson late in April, 1856, just a month before the massacre and was favorably impressed with the country. During this visit Wilkinson transferred his land claim to James.
 
After the massacre Mrs. Wilkinson abandoned the land and returned to her former home in Tennessee. James gave up his own plans to move to Kansas and the land fell into the hands of a third party. Mrs. Wilkinson returned to Kansas in the fall of 1857 in an attempt to reinstate her claim to the land but was not successful. In the second of the two letters, James urged Sen. Stephen A. Douglas to help secure a grant of land for Wilkinson's widow and children in compensation for the land lost in eastern Kansas. He also used the opportunity to present his own case for a similar grant.
 
 
 
After reading these three different sources what do you know about John Brown? What did he do? Do you believe he was justified in his actions?
 

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