Digital History>eXplorations>John Brown: Hero or Terrorist?> John Brown in his Own Words>John Brown

This is one of the earliest photographs of John Brown, made at Springfield, Massachusetts by a black photographer. Some historians think that the banner that Brown is holding may be one with the letters "S.P.W." on it, the initials standing for Brown's underground railroad idea - the Subterranean Pass Way.

Brown's plan called for establishing secret bases in the Allegheny Mountains from which armed groups could attack a the property of a slaveholder and also provide support to fugitive slaves as they traveled north.

In this portrait, Brown stands with one hand raised, as if repeating the pledge he had made several years earlier to dedicate his life to the destruction of slavery.

For more information about Augustus Washington, the son of a former slave,
see the Civil war@Smithsonian
A Durable Memento

Daguerreotype of John Brown, circa 1847
Augustus Washington (1820/21–1875)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution



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