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History's Happenings for May 9

Birth of Abolitionist John Brown

Abolitionist John Brown

John Brown was born -- in Torrington, CT in 1800 -- raised, and spent his life as an avowed abolitionist. In 1830's Pennsylvania he formed a group of similar leaning in an attempt to educate young blacks, a pursuit he engaged in for the next twenty years. His hatred of slavery was so great that he gradually evolved an acceptance of violence as a legitimate means to end the institution.

In the 1850's, Brown and his five sons traveled to Kansas Territory to engage in the ongoing struggle there between abolitionist and pro-slavery elements. After the massacre of abolitionists in Lawrence in 1856, the Brown family exacted vengeance against pro-slavers by hunting down and killing five of them.

By 1857 Brown had made a name for himself in national abolitionist circles, and he began to ruminate about freeing slaves through force, a plan which attracted a small following. Plans grew slowly and there were small skirmishes which amounted to nothing.

Then on October 16, 1859, Brown and eighteen followers, including several sons, struck, attacking the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, VA (now WV). After taking the arsenal and occupying the town, Brown's forces took up defensive positions as the local militia ranged against them. The next day, the militia was reinforced by a detachment of U. S. Marines under none other than Col. Robert E. Lee.

In the ensuing fight, Brown lost ten men, including two sons, and was forced to surrender. A Virginia court convicted him of treason and other crimes, and sentenced him to death. He was hanged in December, in Charlestown.

After his death, he quickly became a martyr for the anti-slavery movement, which found the institution more horrific than Brown's violence.

Columbus Shoves Off on Last Voyage

Explorer Christopher Columbus, embarked on his fourth and last voyage to the new world

(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
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Byrd First Over the North Pole

Arctic explorer Richard Byrd

(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
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