Tribute to the "Old Man's" "Old Man,"
John Brown’s father, Owen Brown, was a dedicated peaceful abolitionist who advocated that African-Americans deserved an equal opportunity for education and asserted that African Americans’ lack of civil rights and spiritual growth were being denied because of their lack of education.
|Owen Brown, ca. 1830|
(Hudson Library & Historical
Society, Hudson, Oh.)
Owen Brown wrote a letter to the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society on April 27, 1837, in which he stated:
Resolved, that education lies at the foundation of elevation in civil and religious liberty, and that it is expedient that there should be a State Anti-Slavery Education Society formed, and that it be recommended to the county and town societies to form societies auxiliary to the State Anti-Slavery Society.Owen Brown proceeded to list the reasons he believed the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society should form an Anti-Slavery Education Society, and pointed out that African-Americans were excluded from attending schools with European-American students. “Public sentiment forbids them from their being schooled in common schools at the present, even when they are able to pay for their schooling,” he wrote.
He added the observation that when abolitionists attempted to organize schools for African-Americans, their efforts were met with legal and social opposition. He wrote: “Where schools have been set up at the expense and self-denial of individuals, in most cases they have met with great opposition; their expense has increased; their patience tried, and they have had the aid of but very few.”
African-Americans were largely denied access to formal education in the 1830s in both the North and the South, which was a means of enforcing the social stratification that worked to keep African-Americans legally and socially subservient to European-Americans. His proposal to work to provide formal education to African-Americans was a radical and revolutionary proposal in the 1830s, and he did not mince words when he pointed out the negative effects a lack of education had on African-Americans.
“For want of education, newspaper and periodical is in a manner lost; correspondence with each other is cut off, and much kind advice and instruction are lost, such as are necessary to regulate their conduct, make them good members of religious and civil society, and make them useful and happy neighbors, lessen their crimes, and raise their prospects for time and eternity,” he states.
Owen Brown was a Christian who believed that all people were equal in the eyes of God, and that all people deserved to be equal in American society regardless of their race. This made him a radical revolutionary in the 1830s. He inculcated his Christian faith and his strong abolitionist beliefs into his children, and both his son, John Brown, and his daughter, Florella Brown Adair, put their father’s beliefs into action, both standing up for his abolitionist beliefs.
Owen Brown is an unsung abolitionist hero.
Grady Atwater is site administrator at the John Brown Museum State Historic Site.
Source: Grady Atwater, "Brown's anti-slavery fervor learned at father's knee." Osawatomie Graphic [Osawatomie, Kan.], 27 Nov. 2013.