- Peggy A. Russo
John Brown was born in Torrington, Connecticut, the third of six children of Ruth Mills and Owen Brown, a tanner. The family moved to Hudson, Ohio, in 1805, and soon after his mother's death in 1808, John, who was an indifferent scholar, went to work in his father's tannery. Although he never joined any official abolitionist societies, Brown was opposed to slavery from a very early age, having been taught by his deeply religious father that slavery was a sin against God. Brown witnessed the real meaning of his father's lessons when he traveled alone to Michigan during the War of 1812 to deliver some of his father's cattle to the U.S. Army. During a visit to a farm, Brown saw the farmer beat a slave who was about Brown's age. Deeply affected by the incident, Brown declared himself an enemy of slavery.
In 1820 Brown ...
A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619–1895.