John Brown's Raid

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by bwallac4
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Social Studies
American History

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John Brown's Raid

John Brown's Raid

What's the Issue? Was Brown just or mad?The issue is if Brown should be viewed as a hero, or a terrorist and the site is a controversial lieu de memoire because Brown can easily be called either for his actions during the raid on Harpers Ferry. The site represents Brown not because he was a good or bad man, but because his memory is so controversial. It is true that any attention is good attention because it established Brown’s lasting memory and allowed his figure to be used historically for great symbolic effect by those who agreed with his ideals and methods. Also, it has cemented his place as an infamous person and his story is still used today for commercial purposes.

Today, the engine house does not serve as a memorial to Brown but rather as a site of learning. Because of the unilaterally negative view of slavery, any action that was in the name of opposing it is immediately given some amount of approval. While it is not wrong to approve of Brown, one must remember that actions have consequences and that believing in something does not make it right.

In his speech about the reasons for the removal of Confederate Monuments, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu points out that the monuments made certain citizens uncomfortable, that they were installed for this very purpose, portray the confederates as heroes, and do so at the expense of another group. John Brown’s Fort does none of these things so it should not be removed. However, it does elevate Brown’s figure which means that he may be looked to for guidance. Because Brown is not a figure that should be easily used as a role model, efforts must be taken to fully recognize his faults while also maintaining the site as a place where historical events are related with very little bias.

And What does this Mean Today? - Emotion drives change, Brown’s actions resulted in both Pro- and anti-slavers becoming enraged which expedited events. Without Brown, a change would have occurred in a different way or time.  - It allows us to see how the perception of an event by one group differs (is opposite) that of the group’s opposition even if the physical perspective is identical.

The Purveyor of Justice

What should we Think about Brown?

Brown's  goal was to steal weapons from the national armory so he could lead a guerrilla campaign against the South. During his raid, he    1) killed a free, unharmed,            black man    2) held up a train and two              other white citizens    3) resisted arrest by federal          forces

The Madman

What is the Site?

Brown wanted to secure arms to begin a liberation of the enslaved in the South.     1) the opposite of evil is              good, slavery is evil so            action against it is just    2) Willing to give his life             for a righteous cause

John Brown’s Fort is an engine house formerly used by the B&O Railroad in Harpers Ferry WV. During Brown’s October 16th raid on the federal armory at the town, it was used by his forces after the townspeople prevented them from escaping. Today it serves primarily as a tourist attraction because of its connection to the prominent figure of John Brown, whose notoriety was in large part due to this raid. Unfortunately, the site is not so much used to remember a great man (if Brown can be called that) but rather as a commercial boon for the town. However, the historical memory associated with the location can still be considered and what ideals these memories might unintentionally be promoting. Brown’s methods can be identified as violent, yet his purpose just. So does the site encourage violence as a means of resolution, or the keeping of morally just ideals?

To appropriately appreciate the events of that night, we must make an effort to see all its sides. The site should not be altered but an effort, particularly in oral recollection, must be made to represent Brown's failings. Remembering him as a freedom fighter only makes a hero out of a man who's actions undermined a respectable intent. Viewing Brown as a hero inherently promotes violence and insurrection as well as nurturing a belief of oneself as infallible



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