Why was John Brown a villain?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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People of the time would have had different views on John Brown's actions depending on which side of the slavery issue they stood. To southerners, John Brown was a villain. He went into Kansas and attacked pro-slavery forces. As a result of his actions, some pro-slavery people were killed. This is how the name “Bleeding Kansas” developed. In Kansas, there was a fierce debate about whether slavery should spread to the territory. John Brown believed it shouldn’t spread there.

Southerners were shocked at John Brown’s actions at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in 1859. He attacked a federal arsenal in hopes of starting a slave revolt. His attempt was unsuccessful, and he was sentenced to death. Southerners truly believed he was an evil man.

However, to northerners, he was viewed as a martyr. He gave his life in an attempt to stop slavery from spreading and in an attempt to end slavery. He was viewed as a hero in the North. The differences in opinion between northerners and southerners about John Brown showed just how divided the country was over the slavery issue by 1860. The Civil War was not far away from starting.

In today's world, there is no question John Brown would be viewed as a villain. Though supporting slavery is not accepted by our society, it also is generally not acceptable to use violence to promote one's views about issues or to try to accomplish certain goals by using violence. As a result of his actions, innocent people were killed. John Brown would be considered a villain today.

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