5 Black Unsung Heroes of Harpers Ferry

Written by Jae Jones

The unsung black hero participants on John Brown’s raid on “Harpers Ferry” included: Shields Green, John Copeland, Lewis Leary, Osborne Anderson, and Dangerfield Newby. The five men were a diverse group, with backgrounds suggesting the full range of the African American experience of their day. They ranged in different ages but had come together for the same reason. Brown had originally hoped to gather many more recruits of all races, but a change in timing limited the number of volunteers for Harpers Ferry attack. Recruits always gathered secretly and often changed locations when people became suspicious. Brown was limited in power, but to avoid being discovered he decided to go ahead with his plan on Harpers Ferry. So, these 5 unsung heroes went ahead with Brown’s plan.


1. Shields Green

Shields Green, also known as “Emperor,” was an ex-slave who participated in John Brown’s unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry. Though he had a chance to escape being captured, he returned to the fighting and was captured along with Brown.

john copeland

2. John Copeland

John Copeland was born a free black from Raleigh, North Carolina. He became involved in abolitionist and antislavery activities, and participated in the successful Oberlin-Wellington Rescue. Copeland joined John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, and was also captured, convicted of treason, and hanged on December 16, 1859.


3. Lewis Leary

Lewis Sheridan Leary, an African-American harness maker from Oberlin, Ohio, joined John Brown’s unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry, where he was killed.


4. Osborne Anderson

Osborne Perry Anderson was an African-American abolitionist and the only surviving African-American member of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. He later went on to become a soldier in the Union army of the American Civil War.


5. Dangerfield Newby

Dangerfield Newby was the oldest of John Brown’s raiders, one of five black raiders, and the first of his men to die at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Born into slavery in Fauquier County, Virginia, Newby married a woman who had also been enslaved.


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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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