February 27th, 2009
Taken by Augustus Washington circa 1846, this is the first known photograph of John Brown. The photograph is being housed in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Augustus Washington was an African American photographer. The photograph of John Brown was intended to capture his true identity.
Taken more than a decade before the Harper’s Ferry incident, the photograph reveals a determined man taking an oath. Brown was an American abolitionist. He fiercely opposed slavery and took up arms to oppose it. In 1856, Brown led the Pottawatomie Massacre in “Bleeding Kansas.” His unsuccessful raid at Harper’s Ferry resulted in the ultimate price with his execution.
Ten years after this photograph was taken, Brown led an attack on a settlement along the Pottawatomie River. During the attack, Brown retaliated for the recent murders of five antislavery men by proslavery settlers. In revenge of their murders, he led the brutal seizure and murder of five unarmed, southern settlers. Brown actually could have killed nine men; however, he only wanted to avenge the five murders. He said he wanted to create “a restraining fear” in the southern proslavery settlers.
A fierce abolitionist, Brown made a name for himself, as a result of “Bleeding Kansas.” In October 1859 at Harper’s Ferry, Brown led a raid on the United States Armory and Arsenal. His noble and brave aim was to establish a colony for freed slaves in the mountains of Maryland. On December 2, 1859, Brown was captured and hanged for treason in Charles Town.