While many whites believed that John Brown was a madman, African Americans recognized the slave system as madness and celebrated Brown’s willingness to die for the anti-slavery cause. Brown was rare among white abolitionists in his insistence on full equality between blacks and whites; throughout his adult life he interacted socially with African Americans on an egalitarian basis to a degree unprecedented in antebellum America. This newspaper account describes a meeting held in an African-American church in Pittsburgh on November 29, 1859, a few days before Brown was scheduled to die. The assembled citizens proclaimed Brown "a hero, patriot, and Christian," called for black businesses and schools to close on December 2nd (the date of Brown’s execution), and collected money for Brown’s family.
Mr. Editor: - On Tuesday evening, the 29th ult., a public meeting was held at the Wylie street A.M.E. Church to give expression to sentiments in relation to Captain John Brown.
The meeting was organized by calling Charles Jones to the chair, and appointing Rufus S. Jones as Secretary, after which a committee was appointed consisting of Messrs. John Peck, Benjamin T. Tanner, Austin B. Lloyd, Lewis Woodson, Jr., and Harvey G. Webb, in connection with S; A. Neal, Samuel Lindsay, and Thomas Beach, as a conferring committee on the part of the colored residents of Allegheny City. While the committee withdrew to prepare resolutions, several warm speeches were made.
The committee reported the following preamble and resolutions, which were discussed and adopted:
We, the colored people of Pittsburgh and vicinity, assembled in Wylie street Church Nov.29, 1859, acknowledge in the person of John Brown a hero, patriot, and Christian -- a hero because he was fearless to defend the poor; a patriot because he loves his countrymen; and a Christian because he loves his neighbor as himself, and remembered those in bonds as bound with them, Therefore, be it
Resolved, That in his death we feel that, with Caiphas, "it needs be that one man die for the people."
Resolved, That we sincerely believe in the old maxim, that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."
Resolved, That we see in the Harper's Ferry affair what Daniel Webster saw when speaking of Crispus Attucks, the black Revolutionary martyr who fell in Boston-viz. the severance of two antagonistic principles.
Resolved, That John Brown, in taking up arms to liberate the slaves, only acted upon the maxim that "resistance to tyrants is obedience to God."
Resolved, That upon next Friday, December 2d, the day upon which he is to be executed, we close our places of business between the hours of ten and three o'clock; that a sermon be preached at 11 o'clock a.m., in the A.M.E. Church, and that appropriate services be held in the evening of the same place at which time a collection shall be raised in behalf of Capt. Brown's family.
Resolved, That the teachers of our public schools be requested to suspend service on that day.
Resolved, That, in the event of the execution of John Brown upon the 2d of December, the anniversary of that day be hereafter perpetually observed among us as a day of humiliation and prayer.
According to resolution, a sermon was preached last Friday, at 11 o'clock by the Rev. Nelson U. Turpin, pastor of the Wylie street Church. His text was the first clause of the twenty-second verse of the seventy-fourth psalm. After he had concluded, Rev. John Gibbs, pastor of Brown's chapel, Allegheny City, arose, and made a few fitting remarks, which had a tendency to make one feel that more than [an] ordinary man had fallen a prey to tyranny.
In the evening there was a meeting at the same place, at which Rev. Mr. Turpin presided, and B. T. Tanner acted as Secretary.
Addresses were delivered by Prof. George B. Vashon, M. H. Freeman, Sami A. Neal, and Rev. J. R. V. Morgan, after which a collection was made in behalf of the family of the martyred Brown amounting to sixteen dollars.
Source: Weekly Anglo-African, December 17 1859.