History

Dangerfield Newby

Dangerfield Newby (1815-1859) was an African American man who played a significant role in the abolitionist movement and the events leading up to John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. Born into slavery in Virginia, Dangerfield Newby was owned by a man named John Newby. In the 1850s, he married a woman named Harriet who was also enslaved. Harriet and their children were owned by different slaveholders in Virginia, and Newby was determined to purchase their freedom.

Newby became involved with John Brown, a prominent abolitionist, and anti-slavery advocate. Brown, along with a group of supporters, planned a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry in present-day West Virginia in 1859, with the intention of sparking a slave rebellion. Newby joined Brown’s group, hoping that by participating in the raid, he would secure the funds to purchase his family’s freedom. Tragically, the raid on Harpers Ferry did not go as planned. The group was overwhelmed and captured by U.S. Marines led by Colonel Robert E. Lee. Dangerfield Newby was among those captured, and he was subsequently executed on October 17, 1859.

Newby’s tragic story highlights the desperation and sacrifices made by enslaved individuals seeking freedom for themselves and their loved ones. While the raid on Harpers Ferry did not succeed in sparking a widespread slave uprising, it remains a significant event in the lead-up to the American Civil War and the fight against slavery in the United States. Dangerfield Newby’s participation in the raid underscores the lengths to which individuals were willing to go in their struggle for freedom and the pursuit of justice.

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