Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Today in Media History: The first African-American newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, was founded in 1827 | Poynter.

Freedom’s Journal, the first African-American newspaper, was founded on March 16, 1827.

“‘We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.’

Thus declare Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm on the front page of Freedom’s Journal, the first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States.

The Journal was published weekly in New York City from 1827 to 1829.”

Freedom’s Journal
Georgetown University Library / Wisconsin Historical Society
Freedom's Journal, March 16, 1827, Library of Congress Image

The Wisconsin Historical Society has created a Freedom’s Journal Online Archive. They have digitized and posted all 103 issues. Here is an excerpt from their archive page:

“Freedom’s Journal provided international, national, and regional information on current events and contained editorials declaiming slavery, lynching, and other injustices. The Journal also published biographies of prominent African-Americans and listings of births, deaths, and marriages in the African-American New York community. Freedom’s Journal circulated in 11 states, the District of Columbia, Haiti, Europe, and Canada.” The history documentary, “The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords,” aired on PBS in 1999.

Following is an excerpt from the film’s website and facilitator guide:

“From the founding of the first Black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal in 1827, Black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass recognized the press as a powerful weapon against the enforced silence of slavery.

This tradition of crusading journalism was carried on by pioneering scribes like Ida B. Wells, one of the first female newspaper owners in America and a leader in the fight against lynchings and Jim Crow. Robert S. Abbott built the Chicago Defender into the most powerful and successful Black-owned newspaper of all time and is often credited with inspiring the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to northern cities.”

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