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May 24: John Brown and August Bondi

Lawrence Bush
May 24, 2010

bondiOn this date in 1856, John Brown and a small group of his Free State volunteers killed at least five pro-slavery men in three different houses along the Pottawatomie Creek in southeastern Kansas. Among the killers was Theodore Weiner, a Jew described as a “big, savage, bloodthirsty Austrian.” The next day, Brown and an expanded band fought with pro-slavery fighers nearby at the Battle of Black Jack Creek. Among Brown’s group were two other Jews, August Bondi and Jacob Benjamin. The Pottawatomie massacre was vengeance for pro-slavery violence in the town of Lawrence, and in turn prompted the eruption of guerrilla violence throughout the territory, with “free soilers” and pro-slavery fighters raiding each other vengefully. Bondi, a revolutionist from Vienna who fled to the U.S. in 1848, went on the fight in the Civil War and serve in a variety of public offices in Salina.
“We were united as a band of brothers by the love and affection toward the man who . . . always preached against slavery and hammered home to us that we should never accept existing laws and institutions . . . if our conscience and reason condemn them.” —August Bondi

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.