Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in History


Arch Dalrymple III Department of History

First Advisor

Anne S. Twitty

Second Advisor

Peter Reed

Third Advisor

Marc Lerner

Relational Format



The Haitian Revolution changed John Brown to a degree not recognized by scholars. Brown lived in an America largely shaped by the revolt, and it is no surprise that it shaped him as well. While preoccupied with debt, Brown did not consider the Haitian Revolution at length. Released from debt in 1842, however, Brown began reflecting on the revolt and, consequently, on his pacifism. Brown could not reconcile the two. Less than five years after his insolvency Brown had abandoned pacifism, and, in 1847, he revealed to Frederick Douglass that he planned to employ the bloody lessons of the Haitian Revolution--guerrilla warfare and slave insurrection--in his crusade against American slavery. Brown, true to his word, used Haiti to attack human bondage in Kansas and Virginia, killing many people in the process. The degree to which Brown's actions recalled the Haitian Revolution--an event that had frightened white Americans for decades--terrified observers. And, because the contours of Haiti were visible in Brown, the vitality of American slavery was crippled; the Civil War loomed on the horizon during Brown's execution in December 1859.

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