Question of the Week: 10/21-10/27/19

How/when did you first learn about John Brown and the 1859 Raid? Have your perspectives on the man or event changed over the years?

7 Responses to Question of the Week: 10/21-10/27/19

  1. Although the Civil War was discussed in general terms as “the war to free the slaves” in my Rock Island County primary school and junior high, it was a movie viewed on TV when I was perhaps ten years old that introduced the story of John Brown at Harpers Ferry (which I believe was the 1960 production, “John Brown’s Raid.”) The movie presented a story about which I was unfamiliar; and for years it was difficult to put the story of John Brown into proper perspective. Yet over time, “John Brown” grew into a figure larger than life: religious zealot, active on the Underground Railroad, anti-slavery partisan during Bloody Kansas, familiar with Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman… But it was John Brown’s connection with Davenport and Springdale Iowa that really sparked my interest (as both locations are very close to where I grew up.)
    The schools I attended struggled to “explain” John Brown, and his role in history was generally relegated to not much more than a footnote (with the raid into Harpers Ferry characterized as “misguided, ill-conceived, and not thought through.”)
    I am still learning about John Brown. He was a polarizing figure (loved by some, hated by others) and I have yet to make a determination about him. But, one thing is clear: “Don’t let anyone tell you that ONE man cannot make a difference.”

  2. I read about it in our World Book Encyclopedias back when I was real young. I didn’t really understand all of the issues at that time, but all I did back then was play ball and read those darned encyclopedias.

  3. I was indifferent when we learned about him in grade school and learned the song John Brown’s body. Later I learned he was a psychopathic killer. No matter what your cause is killing people is not the answer.

  4. I, like many, learned about John Brown in history class in middle school. He took up maybe a paragraph or two in the textbook and one question on the test. It wasn’t until I started to delve more into ACW studies that I learned all the facets of his story and character. Our trip to Harper’s Ferry this last August was the apex of my understanding (so far) of the man. My opinion has never really improved. Though his intentions are admirable, his methods aren’t. They made him a martyr and to many, he was. To me, he was a contributing catalyst to the violence that consumed the country a few years later.

  5. Probably before the age of five in a civil war book with a painting of him looking like a giant. I’ve turned on him since then.

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