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John Brown Born – Today in History: May 9
John Brown

John Brown, ca. 1899 - Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division


On May 9, 1800, the man who became a catalyst for the Civil War was born in an 18th-century saltbox house in West Torringford. John Brown, who would spend most of his childhood in Ohio, was a tanner and farmer who became persuaded that America’s millions of enslaved people must be freed at once and at all costs. In October 1859 he attempted to seize a federal armory and its weapons to mount an armed insurrection on slavery. He failed and was hanged for treason, among other charges, but many said he had awakened the nation to the plight of the enslaved, and poet Walt Whitman called Brown “the meteor of war.” Considered extreme and even insane in his own day, today he is widely studied for his commitment to ending slavery.

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