Campus News

John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry 160 Years Ago

October 16, 2019

Communications Staff

sepia toned photo of Lewis Sheridan Leary.
Lewis Sheridan Leary, a harness maker from Oberlin.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College Archives

‘‘In Oberlin History’’ is a series dedicated to notable events in Oberlin College history. It is created in partnership with the Office of Communications and Oberlin College Archives.

In October of 1859, abolitionist John Brown led a party of 22 on the raid of a United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. The effort was intended to initiate an armed slave revolt in Southern states. Among the group were three Oberlinians: Shields Green, a former slave and abolitionist; Lewis Sheridan Leary, a harness maker; and John A. Copeland, a student of the Oberlin Preparatory Department between 1854 and 1855.

A monument in their honor stands in Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Vine Street in Oberlin. Although some questioned John Brown’s intentions in leading the ill-fated raid, his small group of followers, including the Oberlinians, remained steadfast in their fight against slavery.

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