Heyward Shepherd Monument, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Heyward Shepherd Monument
Heyward Shepherd Monument 1995 Plaque
John Brown's Raid

Dublin Core


Heyward Shepherd Monument, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia


The Heyward Shepherd Monument, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia Monument commemorates Heyward Shepherd, a free African American who worked as a baggage handler for Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. During abolitionist John Brown’s attempted slave revolt which set out to take over the Harpers Ferry Virginia United States arsenal, Heyward Shepherd was the first man killed by one of Brown’s men. The raid itself was swiftly put down by a United States Marines company. The monument was planned and intended to be a Faithful Slave Monument to claim the loyalty of slaves towards the Confederacy. Even though Shepherd was free, his death was used as rationale for perpetuating the Lost Cause narrative of the Faithful Slave. According to the doctor that attempted to treat his wounds, claimed Shepherd was looking for a missing watchman on a railroad bridge when approached by men who told him to halt. Shepherd ignored their orders, turning his back to walk away, and was shot from behind. It is not known whether Shepherd was even opposed to John Brown’s actions, however his narrative was distorted by the UDC who used Shepherd to promote their own cause. Today Heyward Shepherd’s monument remains standing as a granite boulder with an inscription near descriptive plaques.

The monument was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans and faced immediate challenge in 1931. The immediate reaction was a plaque created by NAACP, or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, condemning the false notion of Shepherd as a “faithful slave” just one year later. The plaque was immediately removed until 2006, which was placed at the Fort's original location. The claim of loyal and faithful slaves led to continued controversies over the monument throughout the years. In 1955 another plaque was created by the National Park Service that recorded the history of the monument as being reflective of the Lost Cause. In the 1970s, the National Park Service removed the monument for protection due to supposed construction with surrounding buildings and remained due to threats of defacement. In 1995, the plaque was on display for the public again, while in 1994 a newer plaque was created and placed next to the monument with an interpretive text, depicting the controversial history of the monument of Heyward Shepherd. Once again the plaque incited the values of the Lost Cause.


Peter-Burghard Stone Company of Louisville


Shackel, Paul A. "Heyward Shepherd: The Faithful Slave Memorial." Historical Archaeology 37, no. 3 (2003): 138-48. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25617086 (accessed December 13, 2020).

Ochiai, Akiko. "Continuing Skirmishes in Harpers Ferry: Entangled Memories of Heyward Shepherd and John Brown.” Japanese Journal of American Studies, No. 23 (2012): 7-26.




Sally Hy
Londyn Petero




Sculpture, Granite Boulder


HIST 402A Fall 2020
HIST 402A Fall 2021


Harper's Ferry, West Virginia