Friday, February 18, 2011

Freedom's Journal

Founders of Freedom’s Journal chose Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm as editors of the first completely black newspaper.

Cornish was born to free black parents in 1795. He taught in a school for blacks, became a minister and organized the first black Presbyterian church in NYC.

Russwurm was born free in Jamaica in 1799. He went to school in Canada and graduated from college in Maine. He was one of the first black men to graduate from an American college.

The Black owners of this paper hired Black editors. They featured issues and articles of interest to the black community.

These intelligent editors stated their purpose in the first issue. “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long others have spoken for us. Too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations in things that concern us dearly.”

Not only did Cornish and Russwurm want to plead their cause, they wanted to promote learning and civil rights. They spoke against slavery and lynching. They advocated political rights and voting rights. They taught about life and news in foreign lands. They even included biographies of successful blacks and advice about life.

The paper’s motto, “Righteousness Exalteth a Nation,” was front and center. At its peak the paper had 44 sales reps and cost $3. Approximately 800 copies were distributed over 11 states each week. All 103 of the issues have been digitized and can be found at

As time progressed, however, disagreement arose between Russwurm and Cornish. Russwurm used the paper to advocate for colonization - the practice of transporting slaves back to Africa to form colonies. Samuel Cornish disagreed with this and resigned his editorship. He did, however, stay on as an agent of the paper.

John Russwurm continued to encourage colonization, but this was unpopular with his readership. He soon lost readers and the last issue was printed on March 28, 1929.

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At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Jim Rapp said...

Very interesting piece. I hadn't heard of these men. It sounds like Russwurm was caught up in the ideas of Marcus Garvey. Cornish was born in 1795, Russwurm in 1799 and Freedom's Journal was published until 1920. Surely the Journal must have outlived both Cornish and Russwurm.

At 6:54 AM, Blogger Sheila said...

Thanks Jim. I didn't know that the Journal continued. I suspect it changed hands and I did not have that information.


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