Black History: Special Delivery!!

freedoms journal 

Freedom’s Journal was the first African American owned and operated newspaper in the United States. It was a 4 column publication that was printed, weekly on Fridays. The publication was started by John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish in 1827 in New York City. The paper featured foreign and domestic news, editorials, biographies, births, deaths and advertisements from the local community. The paper openly decried the ills of slavery, discrimination and other issues of concern within the African American community. The publication was strategic in its efforts to combat the negative stereotypes of blacks published in white-owned newspapers which openly supported slavery and mistreatment of blacks. 

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Freedom’s Journal was also designed to provide a forum for African Americans to express their perspectives and points of view. Russwurm and Cornish were strong supporters of literacy among African Americans. They also sought to keep their readers informed on national and international happenings. The publication also served as a vehicle to connect African communities. Subscriptions were sold for $3 per year. At its height Freedom’s Journal was distributed in eleven states, the District of Columbia, Haiti, Europe, and Canada.

Samuel Cornish resigned in 1827 leaving John Russwurm as the sole editor. Cornish resigned after differences arose regarding African American colonization of Africa. Russwurm was a supporter of colonization. At that time, many people considered colonization as a solution to address slavery and discrimination in the United States. Freedom’s Journal’s support of colonization was not popular with its readers. As a result, subscriptions began to decline. Freedom’s Journal closed in 1829 due to its dwindling subscriptions. After its closure, Russwurm immigrated to Liberia where he became governor of Liberia’s Maryland County. Samuel Cornish re-entered the publishing business again in 1829; attempting to revive Freedom’s Journal. The paper was re-launched as, “The Rights of All”. The new publication lasted less than one year.

freedoms journal 2
Samuel Cornish (left) and John Russwurm (right), Founders of Freedom Journal

By the start of the American Civil War, (over 30 years later), there were over 40 black-owned and operated newspapers across the U.S.

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