Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Montage of images and link description. John Brown's Holy War Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
The Film & More
Reference
Interview Transcripts | Primary Sources Documents | Further Reading

Paul Finkelman, historian on
why Brown killed

Paul Finkelman FINKELMAN: People always wonder is John Brown a mad killer, is he a homicidal maniac? If he'd been a homicidal maniac he would have killed all of the pro-slavery settlers, he would have killed the women, he would have killed the children. He is going after particular men who have been involved in pro-slavery activities, who have been threatening their neighbors, who are dangerous to the very survival of the free-state settlers in the area. And, in fact, I think John Brown probably correctly sees that this is a situation that is very quickly moving towards, kill-or-be-killed. His neighbors have been threatening him for a while. After the sacking of Lawrence, he feels he better act because, if they can get away with sacking Lawrence, which they have done -- there are already six free-soilers killed in Kansas -- his neighbors may think, well, they can get away with wiping out the Browns. So the Browns strike first. It's a preemptive assault in what is already a civil war in an area where people have already been shot, people have been shot at, and people will continue to be shot at.

previous | back to Interview Transcripts


Program Description | Enhanced Transcript | Reference

The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline | Maps | People & Events | Teacher's Guide

©  New content 1999 PBS Online / WGBH