In reading your story about the events centering on the 150th anniversary of the raid on Harpers Ferry, W. Va., I came away feeling the article portrayed John Brown as a civil rights activist in the mold of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. ("Honoring John Brown's legacy," Monday). The article led me, and, I assume, most readers to believe that Brown was a great man who championed the cause of blacks in the South. This may be true, but to what end?
In the mid-1800s, when proslavers and abolitionists were at odds with one another in Kansas and on the floor of the Senate, Brown decided to take matters into his own hands when he, six of his sons, and his son-in-law arbitrarily abducted five proslavery settlers along the Pottawatomie Creek in Kansas and brutally murdered them. In addition, in 1858, as the nation was getting closer to civil war, Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry was designed to lead a slave revolt in which he and his army, five blacks and 17 whites, would invade slave territory and attack U.S. property. There can be no question that Brown was an advocate for the freedom of blacks. He was truly an abolitionist. However, his methods and acts did little to help the cause of slaves in 19th-century America. On the contrary, his actions exacerbated the distrust between abolitionists and proslavers. There is no question that Brown's massacre at Pottawatomie Creek and his raid on Harpers Ferry were two of the many causes of the Civil War.