John Brown Exhibiting His Hangman


John Brown Exhibiting His Hangman

This lithograph, rather than depicting the scene of Jefferson Davis' arrest, added other symbols to create a more allegorical representation of the Confederate President's capture by Union soldiers. Davis, wearing a woman's dress and bonnet, sits in a birdcage suspended from a hangman's scaffold. Next to the cage, John Brown, clad in a white robe, rises from out of the ground and points accusingly at Davis. Beneath the cage, diminutive figures of African Americans -- in costumes familiar from minstrel stage representations of supposed black character "types" -- perform a jubilant and mocking dance. Brown became the most famous martyr to the anti-slavery cause in 1859, when he led a small band of armed men in a raid against the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, intending to seize the weapons there and free all slaves in the vicinity. Brown and his associates were captured and hanged for treason.

Source: G. Querner, John Brown Exhibiting His Hangman, lithograph, Cincinnati, 1863.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.