John Brown & Harpers Ferry, Grades 9-12
Lessons, Resources, and Activities Explore an Important Event Leading to the American Civil War
Bring a Painting To Life
Students in grades 6-12 write and perform monologues and dialogues based on the painting “The Last Moments of John Brown.”
Will the Real John Brown Please Stand Up!
Students in grades 6-12 explore, through discussion and writing activities, various perspectives of John Brown's character and actions as expressed through paintings, period newspaper articles, and quotes by contemporaries.
John Brown and the Underground Railroad
Students in grades 9-12 analyze John Brown's attitudes and actions against slavery and the differences between his views and those of other people who were active in the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement.
Additional Lessons (Historical Context)
An Early Threat of Secession: The Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Nullification Crisis
Students in grades 9-12 determine how controversies over slavery's expansion and federal tariffs further entrenched the divisions between northern and southern interests.
Slavery's Opponents and Defenders
Students in grades 9-12 explore the wide-ranging debate over American slavery by presenting the lives of its leading opponents and defenders and the views they held about America's "peculiar institution."
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854: Popular Sovereignty and the Political Polarization over Slavery
Students in grades 9-12 examine the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and how it affected the political balance between free and slave states. They explore how its author, Stephen Douglas, promoted popular sovereignty to avoid a national crisis over slavery in the federal territories.
Abolition Movements in the United States
Students in grades 9-12 profile American abolitionists to better understand abolition movements.
Harpers Ferry Jeopardy
Two rounds of Harpers Ferry Jeopardy. The first round covers basic information and the second round is very specific to industry and archeology.
Slavery in America
History, maps, narratives and biographies, and teacher resources.
Territorial Kansas Online
Explore the turbulent times of "Bleeding Kansas."
Thoreau - On John Brown
“A Plea for Captain John Brown,” a lecture read in November 1859.
Frederick Douglass on John Brown
Though Douglass and Brown had been friends for 11 years, Douglass refused to join Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. Douglass wrote this lecture in 1860 as a tribute.
People, stories, and images associated with Harpers Ferry and John Brown.
John Brown’s Harpers Ferry Raid
Articles, maps, images, and lesson plans.
John Brown's Day of Reckoning
Article on Harpers Ferry raid and links to related materials.
The Life and Trial of John Brown
Includes the trial report and testimony, Brown’s interview and address to the court, Lee’s report, Senate report, and more.
The Portent: John Brown's Raid in American Memory
The Virginia Historical Society website on the 150th anniversary of John Brown's raid on the Federal Armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.
John Brown: Hero or Terrorist?
Resources and teaching unit.
John Brown’s Holy War
Companion website for the American Experience program. Includes a teacher’s guide, timeline, and interactive map.
- John Brown's Holy War: Terrorist or Heroic Revolutionary? (52:24)
Yale University Lecture
- War of Words (55:37) Harvard Lecture #7. Includes discussion of John Brown’s life and prison letters at 41 minutes.
- Fictions of the Real (53:56)
Harvard Lecture#8. Discussion of images from Uncle Tom’s Cabin; John Brown daguerreotypes, Jacob Lawrence’s John Brown series of paintings, Thomas Hovenden’s 1884 painting, “The Last Moments of John Brown”; and, continued discussion of Brown’s prison letters.
- Meet the Past: John Brown (26:28)
- John Brown’s Last Speech (2:36)
- John Brown (16 brief videos)