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Even before the Civil War, black newspapers existed to keep Blacks informed of the fight against slavery. Two in particular were The Anglo-African and The Christian Recorder. Robert Hamilton founded the Anglo-African in 1859.

The paper used Black writers and activists to spread the news of the struggle in the South. The free black population of 12,000 in New York supported the abolition of slavery. They were inspired by speaker/writer and abolition activist Frederick Douglass, whose memoir of life as a slave helped the abolitionist movement.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church developed The Christian Recorder, which was first The Christian Herald, in 1848. The Recorder publicized the plight of Black soldiers, arguing that they were not legally members of the society they were fighting for and thus should not be placed in harm’s way.

This was the opposite of what the Anglo-African suggested, which published an editorial called “The Reserve Guard” which praised the black soldier’s desire to pull the trigger:

“Colored men whose fingers tingle to pull the trigger, or clutch the knife aimed at the slaveholders in arms, will not have to wait much longer. Whether the fools attack Washington and succeed or whether they attempt Maryland and fail, there is equal need for calling out the nation’s ‘Reserve Guard.’ – The Anglo-African

The Christian Recorder also printed anti-slavery editorials, using the British Caribbean as an example since slavery was abolished there in 1830. The Recorder argued that free Blacks would not overrun the country or resort to violence as a way to survive two popular arguments against emancipation at the time.

When the Emancipation Proclamation passed on January 1, 1863, both the Christian Recorder and The Anglo-African reported on the celebrations. Despite the Proclamation, it took Union forces another 2 and a half years to deliver the news to troops in Texas, making June 19, 1865 the official end date of slavery in the U.S. This created the annual celebration of slavery’s end known as Juneteenth.

The Christian Recorder, the nation’s oldest black periodical, still exists to this day. You can check it out here. 

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