John Brown (1807-1859) after his capture, 1859.Artist: Thomas Hovenden
John Brown (1807-1859) after his capture, 1859. Brown was the first white American abolitionist to advocate and practice insurrection as a means to the abolition of slavery. President Abraham Lincoln said he was a misguided fanatic and Brown has been called the most controversial of all 19th-century Americans. His trial for treason to the state of Virginia and his execution by hanging were an important part of the origins of the American Civil War, which followed sixteen months later. His role and actions prior to the Civil War, as an abolitionist, and the tactics he chose still make him a controversial figure today. Depending on one's point of view, he is sometimes heralded as a heroic martyr and a visionary or vilified as a madman and a terrorist.
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