Introduction to US History/Abolitionists

Type classification: this is an essay resource.
Subject classification: this is a history resource.
Completion status: this resource is a stub, so not much has been done yet.

Work by: Aaqib A. (January 2022)



Editorial Commentary:  How interesting that we tackle a section entitled “Insurrection” on January 6 – the anniversary of our nation's latest insurrection. As you start thinking about how to answer this week's essay, ponder an additional thought.

  • In watching reporters interview participants from last year’s (2021) violent attack on our US Capitol, it has occurred to me that they are not so different from the observers interviewed following John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry.  Look again at your notes and see what Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson & William Lloyd Garrison said about John Brown.
  • Each answer is individual, different and correct.  How can all those different descriptions be correct?
  • As we work to define terrorist, patriot, martyr to the cause, think about this - When is an “insurrection” a patriotic gesture and when it is nothing more than mob-vigilante justice or a riot?
  • How will the world define January 6, 2021 in the future?

Now about this week's Essay . . . .

After reviewing our notes, reading the posted articles and reviewing our textbook in regard to the lives of John Brown, Harriett Tubman and Nat Turner , who, in your opinion, who do you think is a more appropriate representative of the abolitionists’ cause? Explain your choice.

Do you believe John Brown was a martyr to the cause or a criminal worthy of execution?

How do you think Brown would be treated today, if he attempted to take over a government armory? Use your textbook to defend your answers, it includes a link (Links to an external site.) to Henry David Thoreau’s speech that you may or may not wish to use.  Link: (Links to an external site.)

It is “open book” and you may use other internet sites—but if you use alternate sources, they must be cited at the end of the essays



All three mentioned figures, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, and Nat Turner have evolved into legends in today's world. Although Brown and Turner used violence as the answer, both of their actions awoke to the realities of the passion of the abolitionists. They were not passive in their hatred of slavery - they were willing to put their life at risk. Tubman risked her life too but in a non-violent and arguably more effective way. Although legendary and symbolic, the rebellions of Brown and Turner ended in a complete failure. John Brown's group of men in Harper's Ferry, Virginia did get access to the armory in an easy fashion, but they were trapped in there by locals and eventually officially defeated by Colonel Robert E. Lee. Nat Turner's rebellion in the same state did kill 60 people like he intended to, but it was eventually quashed and he was captured and executed for his crimes. Nat Turner was also openly racist about his rebellion, deliberately targetting whites.

Harriet Tubman, in contrast, created a network in which she successfully led more than a hundred slaves to their freedom - not losing at least one slave during her trips! Not only was this directly affective and created a strong message of anti-slavery, but it was not criminal nor violent. The reason why I stress violence vs. non-violence so much is because, in order to sway people to a journey, it's crucial to do so in a non-violent matter so that people feel safer about supporting or joining in on such a cause. Frederick Douglass refused to join in on Brown's rebellion because he believed it was "suicide", and rightfully so. On the other hand, Douglass openly praised Tubman for her heroic efforts in pushing the abolitionist movement. As previously supported, John Brown is more of a criminal than a "hero". He used violence and his rebellion led to the deaths of innocent civilians, including Groceryman Thomas Boerly who defended himself against the raiders. What is the difference between John Brown's causes for anti-slavery vs. Osama bin Laden's 9/11 attack in revenge for America's role in the oppression of Muslims in Somalia and the Middle East?

In today's world, Brown would be viewed just like how he was viewed back then as a lunatic. Abraham Lincoln viewed the attempted revolt as "absurd", even commentating that the slaves did not want to participate because even they could see that it wasn't going to work out as planned. Although he was admired by certain people, including Tubman who saw him as a martyr, his violent actions are no different than the January 6, 2021 raid on the Capitol. Sure, Ashli Babbitt did not kill anyone - but she was attempting to raid the Capitol for a cause that was seen as "acceptable" in only the eyes of the minority. To the rest of the world, she is just like how 1800s America saw Brown as a lunatic. Some may encourage their bravery, but in the end - it did not directly lead to the abolishment of slavery as Brown was hoping for. Ashli Babbitt's efforts are pathetic in comparison to Brown's, but both essentially had the same route: attempted revolt against the norm (at the time), both were dead as a result of their crimes, and both did not lead to any direct advancement in their causes. Just like how slavery was still an issue after his raid (but not for long), Babbitt's president still succumbed to the loss of his bidding in the 2020 presidential elections. Though I believe Babbitt will still be viewed as a lunatic because her cause was based on unproven idiocy, Brown is viewed as a "martyr" and a "hero" in today's world because he took measures to stand up against the heinous act of slavery - at the time, it was the norm, but now it is obviously abhorred and prohibited in all lawful lands in the world.


  • "10 Things You May Not Know About Nat Turner’s Rebellion"., accessed Jan. 9, 2022.
  • "(1868) LETTER FROM FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO HARRIET TUBMAN"., accessed Jan. 9, 2022.
  • "John Brown's Raid"., accessed Jan. 9, 2022.
  • "US History" OpenStax Textbooks Chapter 3.3, P. Scott Corbetta, accessed Jan. 9, 2022.
  • "Killing In the Name of God: Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda". Jerrold M. Post, M.D., accessed Jan. 9, 2022.
  • "Abraham Lincoln on John Brown, February 27, 1860". Harvard University Press Blog, accessed Jan. 9, 2022.