Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor

Written on 08/07/2023

Osborne Perry Anderson was one of the five African American men to accompany John Brown in the raid on the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) in October 1859.  Anderson was a free-born black abolitionist, born in West Fallow Field, Pennsylvania on July 27, 1830.  Along with John Anthony Copeland Jr., another member of the Brown raiding party, Anderson attended Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio.  He later moved to Chatham, Canada, where he worked as a printer for Mary Ann Shadd‘s newspaper, the Provincial Freeman.   In 1858 Anderson met John Brown and eventually became persuaded to join his band of men determined to attack Harpers Ferry.

Osborne Anderson was among the five followers of Brown who escaped capture when U.S. Marines attacked the Arsenal to stop the raid.   He was the only African American to escape capture. 

In 1861 Anderson, now safely in the North, wrote A Voice From Harper’s Ferry with assistance from Mary Ann Shadd, in which he described his role in the raid and argued that many local slaves would have welcomed their liberation and some, in fact, had helped Brown and his men.  Anderson’s account was the only one published by a member of Brown’s party and provided a rare first-hand description of the events and the motivation of these abolitionists.




"Seventeen whites and five blacks participated in John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. Osborne Anderson was the only black person who survived to write about the experience."

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