John Brown, the controversial Abolitionist who used terrorist tactics against slavery, single-handedly changed the course of American history. This biography by critic and cultural biographer Reynolds brings to life the Puritan warrior who gripped slavery by the throat and triggered the Civil War. When does principled resistance become anarchic brutality? How can a murderer be viewed as a heroic freedom fighter? The case of John Brown opens windows on these timely issues. Reynolds demonstrates that Brown's most violent acts--his slaughter of unarmed citizens in Kansas, his liberation of slaves in Missouri, and his dramatic raid, in October 1859, on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia--were inspired by the slave revolts, guerrilla warfare, and revolutionary Christianity of the day. He shows us how Brown seized the nation's attention, creating sudden unity in the North and infuriating the South. He reveals the true depth of Brown's achievement: not only did Brown spark the war that ended slavery, but he planted the seeds of the civil rights movement by making a pioneering demand for complete social and political equality for America's ethnic minorities.