If I were to ask you for an example in American history of a small group of rebels heroically fighting for freedom against government forces despite being completely outnumbered and outgunned, what would be the first event to come to mind? Sadly, the first thing to come to mind for most people is the Battle of the Alamo fought between a small force of around 200 Texan rebels and over 1’800 Mexican troops in 1836. I say sadly, because the primary motivation for the Texan rebellion against Mexico (A country gracious enough to allow large-scale American settlement in its Texan territories, a favour not being returned by the US government today) was the desire to continue holding slaves contrary to Mexican law. Despite the pride many Americans take in the abolition of slavery following the Civil War, few seem to recall that the Texan’s at the Alamo were fighting for the opposite cause- the desire to preserve the institution of slavery. As for an example for a small group who truly were fighting against government forces for the cause of freedom, one need look no further than the example of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in which Brown led a twenty-one men in a effort to ignite a slave rebellion throughout the United States. Most died in battle, while many of the remainder were executed afterwards, including Brown himself. Sadly, Brown is often forgotten in American history and has frequently been portrayed as a villain both by historians and in popular culture. It brings to mind Malcolm X’s words-
“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
Today is the 153rd anniversary of Brown’s raid, an event which receives disgracefully little commemoration in America. Hopefully he will some day achieve recognition as one of the few white figures in nineteenth-century America who actively opposed slavery and was willing to give his own life for its abolition.