John Brown’s Last Speech

Film clip. Josh Brolin reads John Brown’s Last Speech delivered on November 2, 1859. From Voices of a “People’s History of the United States.”

  • Time Periods: Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864, 19th Century | Themes: Organizing, Slavery | Reading Levels: High School | Resource Types: Films
John Brown’s Last Speech

Abolitionist John Brown delivered his last speech in a courtroom in Charles Town, West Virginia on November 2, 1859. The speech, given one month before his execution, defended his role in the action at Harper’s Ferry.

He said: “…I believe that to have interfered as I have done — as I have always freely admitted I have done — in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments. — I submit; so let it be done!…”

Full text of speech.
Film Clip Description

The film clip below is of Josh Brolin reading the speech on October 5, 2005 at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center George and Sakaye Aratani Japan America Theatre, Los Angeles, Calif. The excerpt is from Voices from the People’s History of the United States edited by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove.

There is another reading of this speech from The People Speak on History.com by David Strathairn with an introduction by Viggo Mortensen. (The online clip is preceded by a short advertisement.)

Many more video clips can be found at the Voices of a People’s History website and in the film The People Speak.

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