atm-logoWas abolitionist John Brown a good guy or bad guy?

James T. Lyddy
Park City, Utah

Folks have asked that question for more than 150 years, and support can be found for either side. He fought for a good cause through not-necessarily-good methods. Brown believed in violent insurrection to end slavery. He fought in “Bleeding Kansas,” where he and his followers murdered five pro-slavery Southerners in what was called the Pottawatomie Massacre.

In 1859, Brown led a raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, intending to turn the weapons over to slaves. The effort failed, and Brown was arrested, but 10 of his men were killed and several more were wounded. He was tried, found guilty and hanged. Most historians agree Brown’s raid had a major impact on Southern secession and the Civil War.


Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.  If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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