Today in History: John Brown

Front page of Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper with picture of John Brown
Today in History–October 16–the Library of Congress features John Brown, who led a raid of Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) on this day in 1859, seizing the town’s United States arsenal and rifle works and taking 60 prominent locals hostage. The group hoped to spark a rebellion of freed slaves and to lead an “army of emancipation.” The group was unsuccessful and John Brown was hanged less than two months later. But his actions, according to Frederick Douglass, were not in vain, “No man fails, or can fail who so grandly gives himself and all he has to a righteous cause.” Learn more about this renowned abolitionist by visiting the Today in History section, then click the links below to access more primary sources related to John Brown.

John Brown image set

John Brown sheet music

John Brown’s Body song recording

John Brown books, articles & other documents

John Brown abolition historical newspaper coverage

John Brown Harper’s Ferry historical newspaper coverage

Correspondence between Lydia Maria Child and Gov. Wise and Mrs. Mason, of Virginia related to John Brown

John Brown’s court address

Frederick Douglass’ address, “John Brown”

Learning from the Source: Close Reading in Service of a Cause primary source lesson