Historian Fred Whitehead was taking some friends to see the John Brown Memorial near the Quindaro Townsite ruins of Kansas City, Kansas, on Sunday morning when he discovered the statue of the famous Kansas abolitionist had been vandalized.
A swastika had been depicted on Brown's forehead in black, and the word "Satan" had been written on his beard. At the base of the statue — which bears the words "Erected to the memory of John Brown by a grateful people" — the word "people" had been crossed out and replaced with the n-word and a phallic symbol.
"It was a sickening sight," said Whitehead. "There are racists and Nazis still around. It suggests that John Brown provokes a visceral reaction in these people. "
Whitehead said he made a police report. Kansas City, Kan. police spokesperson Thomas Tomasic said officers were dispatched to the statue at 27th Street and Sewell Avenue shortly after 2 p.m.
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He said the markings were made with black marker.
Whitehead said he assumes the vandalism occurred over the weekend, as the statue was not defaced when he visited the Quindaro Townsite last weekend.
The community of Quindaro was a free-state port for abolitionists and a safe haven for those escaping slavery, as well as a stop on the Underground Railroad. It was also home to Western University, the first African-American university west of the Mississippi River, until the school closed in the 1940s.
Kansas historian Patrick Sumner, who studied Brown and the Underground Railroad for his master's degree at the University of Kansas, said the $5,000 statue was carved from Italian marble and paid for by the working class and the poor, who gave nickels and dimes to fund the statue before its 1911 dedication.
It is thought to be the first statue of Brown.
Sumner was dismayed when he heard from Whitehead, and from a friend in the Police Department, that the statue had been defaced.
"It’s a very important statue which was put together by the people of Quindaro," Sumner said. "It should be recognized and respected instead of defaced."