John Brown believed in the equality of all people in the eyes of God and practiced his belief by having friendships with people of all races, and standing up against racism and slavery.
A hat that John Brown wore that is on display in the John Brown Museum State Historic Site is symbolic of his belief in racial equality, for it was a gift from John Tecumseh “Ottawa” Jones, who was half European-American and half Chippewa Native American, following the Battle of Osawatomie, which was fought on Aug. 30, 1856.
Jones was a leader of the Confederated Tribes that had settled in Franklin County, Kansas, after the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, and he was also an abolitionist. John Tecumseh “Ottawa” Jones supported John Brown, and Jones and Brown became friends.
John Tecumseh “Ottawa” Jones gave John Brown a hat following the Battle of Osawatomie that John Brown wore during his raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, now West Virginia, and the hat passed into the Brown family and was donated to the Kansas Historical Society by Mary Day Brown, John Brown’s wife.
The hat is a symbol of John Brown’s belief in racial equality, a belief that was born of his Christian faith. John Brown believed that all people were equal in the eyes of God, and therefore racism was a sin against God, the sin of pride at its extreme.
John Brown believed that racist-based slavery plunged the already morally and spiritually offensive sin of pride to depths of moral depravity that John Brown could not tolerate and felt compelled to work to abolish racism and slavery in American life.
John Brown’s moral outrage at the acceptance of racism and slavery was fueled to action by his belief that Christians are God’s representatives and arm on earth, and that if a Christian saw an evil act being perpetrated and did nothing to stop the evil act from being perpetrated, then the Christian was as guilty of the evil act as the perpetrator of the evil act.
John Brown treated Native Americans and all other racial groups as equals as a direct act to combat racism, and his friendship with John Tecumseh “Ottawa” Jones was an example of Brown putting his beliefs into action to combat racism and slavery.
John Brown’s belief in racial equality and equal civil rights for all Americans, regardless of their race, made him a radical for his historical era. Indeed, Brown’s belief in racial egalitarianism and his abolitionist crusade was cited as evidence by Brown’s detractors as evidence of insanity in his lifetime.
However, a plain brown hat in the John Brown Museum State Historic Site is a symbol of John Brown’s unshakable Christian belief that all people are equal in the eyes of God and deserve to be treated as equals in all areas of American life.