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Freedom's Journal

Freedom's Journal


Freedom's Journal, founded in March 1827, was the first African-American weekly newspaper. The idea of a black press arose among New York City blacks who sought a public voice to respond to racist commentary in local white newspapers. Samuel E. Cornish (17951858), a Presbyterian minister, and John B. Russwurm (17991851), a graduate of Bowdoin College, took charge of the enterprise. Freedom's Journal followed a format common to antebellum reform newspapers by using current events, anecdotes, and editorials to convey the message of moral reform. The editors also focused on issues of interest to northern free blacks: racial prejudice, slavery, and particularly the threat of colonization (the efforts by the American Colonization Society to expatriate free blacks to Africa).

The newspaper received widespread support from blacks outside New York City. Over two dozen authorized agents, including David Walker in Boston, collected subscriptions and distributed the paper. Within a year, Freedom's Journal reached an audience in eleven northern and southern states, Upper Canada, England, and Haiti.

When Russwurm assumed total control of Freedom's Journal in September 1827, he gradually shifted the paper's editorial position on colonization. Few readers knew that he had actually developed an interest in colonization during his college days, and his announced "conversion" to colonization in 1828 severely damaged the paper's credibility and eroded its base of support. In March 1829 the paper ceased publication, and Russwurm departed for the American Colonization Society's settlement in Liberia. Cornish attempted to revive the newspaper in May 1829 as The Rights of All, but he succeeded in publishing only six monthly issues.

See also Cornish, Samuel E.; Journalism; Russwurm, John Brown

Bibliography

Gross, Bella. "Freedom's Journal and the Rights of All." Journal of Negro History 17 (1932): 241286.

Jacobs, Donald M., ed. Antebellum Black Newspapers. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976.

michael f. hembree (1996)

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