John H. Brown was an American abolitionist leader. Brown felt that violence was necessary to end American slavery, as years of speeches, sermons, petitions, and moral persuasion had failed. A religious man more than anything else, Brown believed he was raised up by God to strike the death blow to American slavery. "He also believed that in all ages of the world God had created certain men to perform special work in some direction far in advance of their countrymen, even at the cost of their lives. He believed that among his earthly missions was to free the American slave...and it must be performed. He was very strict in his religious duties and he regarded this as sacred. "I am an instrument of God."
Brown first gained national attention when he led anti-slavery volunteers during the Bleeding Kansas crisis of the late 1850s, a state-level civil war over whether Kansas would enter the Union as a slave state or a free state. He was dissatisfied with abolitionist pacifism: "These men are all talk. What we need is action—action!"