John Brown Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

With this lesson plan and video lesson, you'll have everything you need to explain to your students the significance of John Brown, from his actions in Kansas to his raid on Harpers Ferry.

Lesson Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe the life and actions of John Brown
  • Analyze the role he played in the events leading up to the Civil War


About 1 hour

Curriculum Standards


Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Key Terms

  • Stephen Douglas
  • John Brown
  • League of Gileadites
  • Harpers Ferry


  • To activate prior knowledge, start this lesson by reviewing the state of the country's attempts to address the problem of slavery. Make sure students understand that they were a failure.
  • Let the students know they will be studying John Brown. Ask students if they have an idea of who this is.
  • Watch the lesson John Brown's Raid at Harpers Ferry: Fighting Slavery, pausing to have students write down key terms.
  • Pause at the following areas for discussion:
    • 3:22 - Who was John Brown? What motivated him? Why was abolition so important to him?
    • 4:34 - What made Kansas such an important battlefield? What was John Brown's role there?
  • After concluding the video, discuss:
    • Why did John Brown target Harpers Ferry? Do you think he knew that he was going to be executed? What is the irony of Robert E. Lee being sent to arrest him?

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