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Freedom: A History of US.
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Webisode 5: A Fatal Contradiction
Introduction Segment 1 Segment 2 Segment 3 Segment 4 Segment 5 Segment 6 Segment 7 Segment 8

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The Hanging of John Brown
Segment 7
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They are already fighting in Kansas and Nebraska territories. Slaveowners and abolitionists have attempted to live together, but it isn't working. As early as 1856 the territory has two governments—one for slavery and one against. Then a posse of about 800 pro-slavery men head for the free town of Lawrence, Kansas, and destroy it. It is guerrilla warfare. One of the soldiers in that war in bloody Kansas is a fierce-eyed white abolitionist named John BrownSee It Now - John Brown. He says things like this: "We must fight fire with fire and strike terror in their hearts."

Brown and his followers use axes to murder five pro-slavery settlers. That starts things. Brown burns with religious fire. He believes he is acting for God. He decides to lead a revolution. He thinks blacks will rise up and follow him. On a dark night in 1859, he and a few followers capture a government arsenal and armory in the pretty little West Virginia town of Harper's Ferry See It Now - Harper's Ferry, where two rivers come together, slash the hills, and create spectacular scenery. But Brown isn't interested in the scenery. He needs help and it never comes Check The Source - John Brown's Raid. He is soon captured—by a military officer named Robert E. Lee—and given a trial that all the nation follows. He puts on a performance few will forget, and his words inflame the North: "I deny everything but a design on my part to free slaves. I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away, but with blood Check The Source - John Brown's Last Statement."

He is right. John Brown stuck his head in a noose made of South Carolina cotton. His words will soon haunt both North and South See It Now - The Hanging of John BrownCheck The Source - "John Brown's Body".


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Did You Know?
In 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney was seventy-nine-years-old and well-respected. Chief Justice Taney was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Andrew Jackson in the 1820s to replace the renowned John Marshall.

Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?



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