Label Text: With flaring eyes and wind-whipped beard, John Steuart Curry’s vision of John Brown radiates moral outrage. Violently opposed to slavery, Brown clutches a Bible in one outstretched arm and a rifle in the other. A slave gazes up at the raging abolitionist. A wagon-line of settlers enters Kansas, a sunflower-dotted territory that promises both fertile land and devastating hardships. Looming behind John Brown, the tornado and prairie fire symbolize the gathering storms of a war over slavery.
John Brown was among numerous Americans who flooded into Kansas in the 1850s, determined to influence whether the territory would enter the United States as a free or slave state. He became notorious—but also celebrated—for his participation in the bloody conflict in Kansas and then the raid at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, which helped spark the Civil War.
Published in 1939, this print would have circulated to Americans anxious about possible involvement in a second great war in Europe.