The Freedom’s Journal was the first Black-owned and operated newspaper in the United States, and its short run had a significant impact on Black publications to come. Started in the early 1800s by free Black men, the paper stood as an informational hub for Black Americans at a time when Black voices were often silenced.
The Journal was started in March 1827 in New York City by Rev. Peter Williams Jr., according to most accounts, with John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish serving as the paper’s editors. Issues of the time such as slavery, abolition, and the deaths of prominent members of the Black community were covered in the paper.
With around 300,000 free Blacks in the North at the time, the paper marketed primarily to that audience while also featuring historic figures of the day and job and home listings. The paper hired agents to collect and renew $3-dollar per year subscriptions. An agent, David Walker, wrote a famous appeal for the Journal that called for a revolt by slaves.
In 1829, Cornish stepped down with Russwurm taking the lead editor role. Russwurm took the paper into a different direction, focusing on colonization and the ongoing emigration movement. Readers disliked the paper’s new direction and stopped supporting it. The Journal folded.
Russwurm emigrated to Liberia for a time and become the governor of the Maryland colony. He returned to the states and tried to start another paper, but that too folded. However, the Journal inspired several others, and by the time the Civil War began, around 40 Black-owned papers had come into existence.
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