Central Question: Did Northerners all respond the same way to Brown's infamous raid? Southerners?


Painting, John Brown, 1867, Thomas S. Noble, NYPL Digital Gallery

Textbooks present John Brown’s abortive raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 as a polarizing event in the growing sectional rift between North and South, unifying opinion in both regions. In fact, the initial response to the raid was more nuanced than it is often portrayed—particularly in the North, where different reactions revealed a complex and multifaceted society struggling with the implications of Brown’s actions.

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