Osborne Perry Anderson (1830-1872) was an African-American abolitionist, writer, and soldier. He is best known for his involvement in John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry and for his subsequent written account of the raid. Anderson was born on October 17, 1830, in West Fallowfield, Pennsylvania. He grew up in a free black community and received an education at Oberlin College in Ohio, where he became acquainted with abolitionist ideas and activists.
In 1858, Anderson met John Brown and joined his group of abolitionists. He actively participated in the raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) in October 1859. The raid aimed to instigate a slave rebellion and strike a blow against the institution of slavery in the United States. However, the raid failed, and most of the raiders, including John Brown, were captured or killed.
Anderson managed to escape capture and made his way to Canada. There, he wrote a detailed and influential account of the raid titled “A Voice from Harper’s Ferry.” Published in 1861, his book provided a firsthand narrative of the events leading up to the raid, the raid itself, and its aftermath. It became an important historical document and offered valuable insights into the motivations and actions of those involved in the raid.
During the American Civil War, Anderson served in the Union Army’s 125th Ohio Infantry Regiment, one of the first Black regiments organized in the state. He fought in several engagements, including the Battle of Vicksburg, where he was wounded. After the war, Anderson remained active in the civil rights movement and worked as a journalist, highlighting issues faced by African Americans.
Osborne Perry Anderson died on August 20, 1872, in Washington, D.C. His contributions to the abolitionist cause and his written account of the Harpers Ferry raid continue to be studied and remembered as important parts of African-American history and the struggle against slavery.