Frederick Douglass' Paper

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Frederick Douglass' Paper


The abolitionist newspaper Frederick Douglass' Paper was founded in December 1847 in Rochester, New York by Frederick Douglass as the North Star. Douglass renamed the paper when it merged with the Liberty Party Paper of Syracuse, New York, in June 1851. During its thirteen-year history, several black intellectuals collaborated on it with Douglass, including Martin R. Delany, William C. Nell, William J. Watkins, and James McCune Smith. Douglass also received assistance from a British abolitionist, Julia Griffiths, who helped him hone his writing skills and, as the paper's business manager, organized fund-raising fairs and lecture tours in England and the United States. The success of Douglass's newspaper can be attributed in large part to an elaborate network of support. Contributions from British abolitionists encouraged Douglass to start the paper in 1847. Later, women's auxiliaries in several cities organized antislavery fairs and bazaars on his behalf.

Douglass recognized the symbolic as well as practical value of a viable black press in the struggle against slavery. He gave the paper his own name to emphasize to a skeptical public that a former slave could master the editor's craft. His paper followed the eclectic approach of the antebellum reform press, but it was first and foremost an anti-slavery organ, and it carried the bold imprint of one man's thought. Douglass directed his message beyond the black community to the broader Anglo-American reformist audience. Despite financial difficulties and criticism from white reformers and black leaders, Douglass succeeded in making his weekly publication the most influential black newspaper of the antebellum period.

See also Abolition; Delany, Martin R.; Douglass, Frederick; Nell, William Cooper; North Star ; Smith, James McCune

Bibliography

Ripley, C. Peter, et al., eds. The Black Abolitionist Papers, Volume 3: The United States, 18301846. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

Ripley, C. Peter, et al., eds. The Black Abolitionist Papers, Volume 4: The United States, 18471859. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

michael f. hembree (1996)
Updated by publisher 2005

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