Five for Freedom (Hardcover)

The African American Soldiers in John Brown's Army

By Eugene L. Meyer

Lawrence Hill Books, 9781613735718, 304pp.

Publication Date: June 1, 2018

Other Editions of This Title:
Compact Disc (6/1/2018)
MP3 CD (6/1/2018)
Pre-Recorded Audio Player (9/1/2018)

List Price: 26.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


On October 16, 1859, John Brown and his band of eighteen raiders descended on Harpers Ferry. In an ill-fated attempt to incite a slave insurrection, they seized the federal arsenal, took hostages, and retreated to a fire engine house where they barricaded themselves until a contingent of US Marines battered their way in on October 18.
     The raiders were routed, and several were captured. Soon after, they were tried, convicted, and hanged. Among Brown’s fighters were five African American men—John Copeland, Shields Green, Dangerfield Newby, Lewis Leary, and Osborne Perry Anderson—whose lives and deaths have long been overshadowed by their martyred leader and who, even today, are little remembered. Only Anderson survived, later publishing the lone insider account of the event that, most historians agree, was a catalyst to the catastrophic American Civil War that followed.
     Five for Freedom is the story of these five brave men, the circumstances in which they were born and raised, how they came together at this fateful time and place, and the legacies they left behind. It is an American story that continues to resonate.

About the Author

Eugene L. Meyer is an award-winning journalist and author and a former longtime reporter and editor at the Washington Post whose work has also appeared in the New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, and many other national and regional publications. He is a contributing editor for Bethesda magazine and lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Praise For Five for Freedom: The African American Soldiers in John Brown's Army

"Finding fascinating stories that other writers miss has been Eugene Meyer's calling card for decades, and he has done it again with this important and largely untold story of five men forgotten in the John Brown legend." —David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of They Marched into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967




"Eugene Meyer has given the story of John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry new meaning and relevance by restoring Brown's black collaborators to their rightful place in history. Five for Freedom elevates the names Newby, Anderson, Copeland, Leary, and Green to stand with Brown as individuals who were willing to sacrifice their own lives to rid our country of the horror of chattel slavery." —Margot Lee Shetterly, author of Hidden Figures

"Deftly weaving history and biography, Meyer reconstructs how these five men came to join the ill-fated attempt to spark a slave revolt. Their role will not be forgotten now that—at long last—it is contained in an engaging and memorable book.” —James McGrath Morris, author of Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press.

"A well-written tour de force of historical detective work.” —Ernest B. Furgurson, author of Freedom Rising and Chancellorsville 1863

"Meyer rights a wrong older than the Civil WarThe author delivers a well-researched, approachable narrative... A good book for Civil War buffs." —Kirkus Reviews

"Eugene L. Meyer has brought to light the central role of the leadership in the black community at the time of the raid... His book has done these freedom fighters a great service.” —Frank Smith, founding director, African American Civil War Memorial Museum

"this book rectifies a glaring omission, focusing on those who stood with John against all odds; but who have largely been forgotten by history."—Midwest Book Review

"You probably have never heard of Osborne Perry Anderson, John Anthony Copeland, Shields Green, Lewis Sheridan Leary and Dangerfield Newby. But after reading this book, you will never forget them.” —Courtland Milloy Jr., Washington Post columnist