John Brown (9 May 1800 – 2 December 1859) was an American violent abolitionist.
In 1856, Brown and his supporters killed five supporters of slavery in the Pottawatomie massacre.
In 1859, Brown led a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (today West Virginia), intending to start a widespread slave rebellion. This was suppressed, but seven people were killed, and ten or more were injured. He was tried for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, the murder of five men (including three Blacks), and inciting a slave insurrection; he was found guilty on all counts and was hanged. He was the first person convicted of treason in the history of the United States.
Writers continue to debate Brown's personality, sanity, motivations, morality, and relation to abolitionism.
The rebellion, and expressed support for it in the North, increased Southern suspicions of abolitionists and escalated the tensions that led to the South's secession a year later and the American Civil War.
Especially recently, John Brown has become a politically correct symbol.