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Brown, John (1800–1859)

John Brown, an American abolitionist leader, dedicated his life to the struggle against slavery. His willingness to employ violent tactics set him apart from many of his fellow white abolitionists, as did his support for full legal and social equality of the races and his own personally egalitarian relations with blacks.

Sternly religious, Brown regarded slavery as an affront against God's law and felt he had a divine mission to bring about its abolition. Although Brown's Calvinist Puritanism has often been regarded as essential to his motivation, neither his followers nor his backers were predominantly Calvinist; in fact, most—including his own sons—were freethinkers of various stripes. A student of the history of guerrilla warfare and slave insurrections, Brown was convinced that concerted private action against slavery ...

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