It is no secret that slavery was widespread in the southern United States from 1619 to the end of the Civil War in 1865. Approximately four million enslaved people of African descent toiled endlessly under inhumane conditions. There were no exceptions; men, women, and even children were forced to work in the fields, beginning at around the age of 10.
In those times, the law stated that slave owners held absolute authority over their slaves. They had the power to sell, dispose of, rent out, or anything else they chose to do with their enslaved persons since they were the slave owners’ property.
As early as 1859, an abolitionist movement was assembled by John Brown to free slaves in places where slavery was heavily enforced. He devised a plan to attack the United States’ federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry Virginia, using freed slaves equipped with pikes and rifles. Unfortunately, John Brown’s plan failed, largely because, contrary to what Brown believed, slaves living in the area did not join the attack. Most men in his raiding party were either captured or killed. After the failed attack, Brown was immediately put on trial and found guilty on charges of murder, inciting insurrection of slaves, and treason against the State of Virginia.
Upon hearing the verdict, Brown addressed the court by saying, in part:
“If it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the end of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments – I submit; so let it be done!” -John Brown
As heartbreaking as it is to read these scarring events in history, we must keep in mind that the issues have had long lasting affects that are revealed on our society. As we progress into the future, we must look back at the painful struggle African Americans have faced for generations. In the words of Dr. Doris N. Starks, author of “Last Days of John Brown, the Abolitionist,” the country faces divisive issues over the value of all persons based on race and ethnicity. Further, how do those beliefs and values affect voting, elections and resource allocation for essential human needs?
About the Author: Dr. Doris N. Starks has had a career in Nursing Education Administration. Her last appointment was that of Dean and Professor of Nursing and Founding Director of the Community Health Center at Coppin State University in Baltimore. Dr. Starks has also been on the faculties and leadership teams at Tuskegee University and Baltimore City Community College Schools of Nursing.
Dr. Starks is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing; member of Sigma Theta Tau, the International Honor Society of Nursing, and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
The guiding principle for the author’s life is based on the Bible reference of Luke 6:31, which is, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” This same belief was expressed by John Brown and served as a foundation for his conviction that slavery was a sin. Brown subsequently followed his belief with action by becoming a dedicated abolitionist.
Among her many interests, Dr. Starks includes History and Social Justice. She currently votes in the courtroom of the Jefferson County Court House in Charles Town, West Virginia, where John Brown was tried for treason.