|The Last Moments of John Brown, by Thomas Hovenden|
In 1859, John Brown led a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry to start a liberation movement among the slaves there. During the raid, he seized the armory; seven people were killed, and ten or more were injured. He intended to arm slaves with weapons from the arsenal, but the attack failed. Within 36 hours, Brown's men had fled or been killed or captured by local pro-slavery farmers, militiamen, and U.S. Marines led by Robert E. Lee. Brown was tried for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, the murder of five men, and inciting a slave insurrection. He was found guilty on all counts and was hanged. Brown's raid captured the nation's attention, as Southerners feared it was just the first of many Northern plots to cause a slave rebellion that might endanger their lives, while Republicans dismissed the notion and claimed they would not interfere with slavery in the South.
Coincidentally, today is also the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.
|An 1851 poster warning the "colored people of Boston" about policemen acting as slave catchers|
David Hunter Strothher (1816-88), was an American journalist who wrote under the pseudonym Porter Crayon for Harper's Monthly. He attended the hanging of John Brown on December 2nd, 1859. Here are his thoughts:
The breeze disturbing the arrangement of the hood, the Sheriff asked his assistant for a pin. Brown raised his hand and directed him to the collar of his coat where several old pins were quilted in. The Sheriff took the pin and completed his work.
Brown was accordingly led forward to the drop, the halter hooked to the beam and the officers supposing that the execution was to follow immediately took leave of him. In doing so, the Sheriff inquired if he did not want a handkerchief to throw as a signal to cut the drop. Brown replied, "No, I don't care; I don't want you to keep me waiting unnecessarily."
|Robert E Lee|
Colonel Smith said to the Sheriff in a low voice, "We are ready."
The civil officers descended from the scaffold. One who stood near me whispered earnestly, "He trembles, his knees are shaking."
"You are mistaken," I replied, "it is the scaffold that shakes under the footsteps of the offficers."
The Folio Books of Days, c 2002 Roger Hudson
|Sam Durant, Scaffold.|
"I made Scaffold as a learning space for people like me, white people who have not suffered the effects of a white supremacist society and who may not consciously know that it exists," he continued. "It has been my belief that white artists need to address issues of white supremacy and its institutional manifestations. Whites created the concept of race and have used it to maintain dominance for centuries, whites must be involved in its dismantling...."
On this day each year, Tibetan Buddhists make their annual pilgrimage to the world's oldest tree in the place that is now known as Bodh Gaya, India. The sacred tree, planted in 282 BC, is honored with prayers, chants, and flags. It is believed to be an offshoot of the same Bodhi (or Bo) tree that the Buddha sat under when he attained enlightenment.