Anti-Slavery Statue Defaced With Swastika, Racial Slurs in Kansas

Warning: This article and attached video contain graphic content.

A statue of abolitionist John Brown near Kansas City, Kansas, was defaced with swastikas and racial slurs by as yet unknown perpetrators over the weekend, according to multiple local reports.

Historian Fred Whitehead, who lives in the area, noticed the markings when he visited the memorial on Sunday, The Kansas City Star reported. Subsequent photos and video footage of the statue revealed that a swastika had been drawn on Brown's forehead in black, and "Hail Satan" was written on his beard. Inverted crosses were drawn under the statue's eyes. Vandals also crossed out the word "people" at the base of the statue and replaced it with the N-word and a phallic symbol.

The Star reported that Whitehead made a police report on Sunday afternoon. As of Monday, the perpetrators had not been caught.

"It was a sickening sight," Whitehead told the Star. "There are racists and Nazis still around. It suggests that John Brown provokes a visceral reaction in these people."

Brown is remembered for having taken direct action against enslavers and their allies in the mid-19th century. After moving across the Midwest and the East Coast throughout much of his youth, Brown followed five of his sons to the Kansas territory in 1855, where he became the leader of antislavery guerillas, terrorizing plantation owners and pro-slavery communities.

In 1856, Brown and his men killed five settlers north of Pottawatomie Creek in Franklin County, Kansas, after pro-slavery forces sacked the anti-slavery town of Lawrence, Kansas. Three years later, Brown led a contingent of 21 men—five blacks and 16 whites—in a raid of the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Their intention was to give the army's weapons to enslaved peoples in the state to spark an uprising against the pro-slavery elite. After 36 hours, most of Brown's men had either been killed or captured by U.S. Marines led by Robert E. Lee.

Brown was captured and convicted of treason in Charlestown, Virginia. He was hanged on December 2, 1859. In a statement before the court, Brown said he did not regret his actions.

"Now, if it be deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children, and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit: So let it be done," he said.

Brown's revolutionary activism drew widespread criticism and adulation at the time. In 1847, black abolitionist Frederick Douglass remarked that although Brown was a "white gentleman," he was nevertheless "in sympathy a black man, and as deeply interested in our cause, as though his own soul had been pierced with the iron of slavery."

The John Brown Memorial was erected in 1911, funded by working-class men and women from the area. It is located near the Quindaro Townsite ruins, which served as a safe haven for runaway enslaved peoples and abolitionists. The community was also a stop along the Underground Railroad.

In a statement, Kansan state senator David Haley, a Democrat who represents the area near the memorial, decried the vandals for desecrating Brown's statue.

"Long before the word 'integration' was in the American lexicon, this citadel right here, called Quindaro, represented people of all races and cultures living together in harmony and a certain peace," Haley said.