This Day in History

Dec. 2, 1859: John Brown Executed

Time Periods: Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864
Themes: African American, Slavery and Resistance
John Brown | Zinn Education Project

Portrait of John Brown by Robert Shetterly.

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.

On Dec. 2, 1859, abolitionist John Brown was executed by the state of Virginia for leading the infamous Harpers Ferry Raid. Below are resources for teaching about John Brown, including a reading of his last speech from Voices of a People’s History of the United States.

The quote on the painting reads:

I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with Blood. I had, as I now think vainly, flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.

The stunning portrait of John Brown is a painting (also available as a poster for $20) by Robert Shetterly from Americans Who Tell the Truth

Two of the other raiders, John Copeland and Shields Green, were executed on Dec. 16, 1859.

1859 Harpers Ferry raid. Clockwise from bottom left: John Anthony Copeland, Lewis Sheridan Leary, Dangerfield Newby, Shields Green, John Brown, and Osborne Perry Anderson