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8.9.4 Freedom's Journal


Quoted in The Black Press 1827–1890: The Quest for National Identity, edited with an introduction by Martin E. Dann (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1971), 35.

Though white-led abolitionist societies did not admit blacks as members until the 1830s, African Americans created their own such societies, and they found other ways to support the cause of ending slavery and promoting their community's well-being. One important way that they did this was to spread antislavery messages in newspapers. Freedom's Journal, started in 1827, was the first black-owned and operated newspaper in the United States. By the time of the Civil War there were 40 different newspapers owned by black Americans. In this article the author encourages free blacks who have the right to "elective franchise" to vote for politicians and beneficial laws for black Americans. The author also voiced sympathy for those still enslaved "by the iron fetters of bondage." How did this article seek to advance the antislavery cause?

Freedom's Journal began in 1827 in New York City, in the same year that gradual emancipation was fully realized in the state. A group of free black men created the paper as a way to counter the negative stereotypes of black people that appeared in many other (white-owned) newspapers. These journalists were some of the 300,000 free blacks living in the North. Like any regular newspaper, Freedom's Journal published daily news, job postings, and birth and death announcements. It also included editorials that spoke against slavery and racial discrimination and promoted black achievement by featuring individuals with notable successes — such as the black poet Phyllis Wheatley. Freedom's Journal lasted only two years but circulated in 11 states and Washington, DC, as well as in Haiti, Europe, and Canada. Encourage students to consider the role of printed materials in disseminating antislavery and racial equality ideals.

"The civil rights of a people being of the greatest value, it shall ever be our duty to vindicate our brethren, when oppressed; and to lay the case before the publick. We shall also urge upon our brethren (who are qualified by the laws of the different states) the expediency of using their elective franchise ... we would not be unmindful of our brethren who are still in the iron fetters of bondage."