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U.S. History/Biased or Unbiased


Are these headlines biased or unbiased and are they supporting or opposing the raid by John Brown on Harper's Ferry: Fearful and Exciting Intelligence. I wrote that this is unbiased because they used fearful, which has a negative connotation, but they also used exciting, which has a positive connotation. Negro Insurrection at Harper's Ferry. I'm not sure at this one, because I don't know if Insurrection has a negative connotation. Harper's Ferry is unbiased. Negro is because they were called that by everyone at the time, so right now, I'm thinking unbiased. Extensive Negro Conspiracy in Virginia and Maryland. I think biased and opposed because it says extensive when it was 22 men. Seizure of the US Arsenal by the Insurrectionists. I said biased, opposed because US Arsenal was a huge exaggeration of the sort. Arms taken and sent into the interior. I think this has a opposing, biased because into the interior, makes you think that the arms was on the outside, and it was wrong for them to go there. The bridge fortified and defended by cannon. I am not sure about this one because I'm not sure if it is a true fact. If it is, then it seems to be unbiased because it isn't saying like terrible people fortified the bridge with cannon preventing the people from getting into their much loved homes. Trains fired into and stopped- several persons killed- telegraph wires cut- contributions levied on the citizens. seems to be unbiased because it is simply stating a bunch of facts over and over. troops despatched against the insurgents from washington and baltimore. I'm not sure about this one because were the african american people from washington and baltimore, or are they saying that the pro- slavery people were the insurgents, and the african american people were the troops.

I don't think any of the lines you describe seem particularly biased. Saying something is fearful and exciting seems an attempt to stir interest, but for people of the time, it was fearful and exciting.  One might consider it biased because if implies a larger possible slave revolt, which was a common fear in the south.  But, of course, that is also what Brown's men hoped to do.

Similarly, calling them insurrectionists seems unbiased since it clearly was the intent of the men to start an insurrection.   Although they failed in their attempt, that was their goal.

Calling it an extensive negro conspiracy seems inaccurate since the attempted inssurection never really spread beyond the men initially involved.  Once could see it as biased in that it was not just negroes involved in the original conspiracy, but white men as well, including being led by a white man.

Seizure of the US Arsenal by insurrectionists seems an accurate description of what happened, assuming you are ok with the term insurrectionist, as we discussed above.

Discussions of what happened seem relatively unbiased.  Whether or not they are accurate may be an issue, but if inaccurate, that would not be bias, just error in reporting.

The insurgents were the men trying to capture the arsenal and start the insurrection.  The troops were the soldiers called out to stop them.  That seems an accurate description of what happened.

I hope this helps!
- Mike  

U.S. History

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Michael Troy


I can answer just about any question on early American History. My specialties are the American Revolution through the Civil War/Reconstruction. I also have greater expertise in matters relating to military, political or legal history.


I have lectured at George Washington University regarding the Civil War, as well as several elementary school Civil War demonstrations. I was also a member of a Civil War reenactment group for about 10 years.


J.D. University of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

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