Today is the birthday of abolitionist John Brown

The strides we've taken as a nation to rectify the grotesque legacy of slavery and Jim Crow that stains America's soul has been…decent. Yes, things have changed for the better, but there are still rotted parts of America's relationship with race that seemingly grow more malignant each year. Although concepts like anti-racism are becoming common vernacular, which is great, the number of card-carrying racists that still occupy the country might seem like too much of a monolithic force to combat.

Whenever I feel disheartened by the present state of racism in America, I like to look back at the people who fought against it in the past. And I don't mean post-slavery, either. I'm talking about when America was still planting the cornerstone for the racist institutions that exist today. Usually, I'm a Nat Turner guy, but, since today is his birthday and all, I'm going to shine a light on John Brown.

Brown was a figure of controversy during his life, as he was both an abolitionist and a terrorist. The motive behind Brown's actions- and the events that his death catalyzed- make him too compelling a historical figure to ignore. To be clear, I'm not condoning the violence that Brown incited, nor am I saying similar measures are required today, but I do think it's important to look back at the man that many believed helped spark the Civil War.