Freedom's Journal

Pete Wadden   ‘09

September 23, 2008

Patrick Rael

History 336

            Freedom's Journal was a weekly periodical published in New York from 1827-1829.  It was the first African-American owned newspaper in the United States and was distributed to readers as far away as Canada, Europe and Haiti.  John B. Russworm was the paper's founder and first editor and was assisted by co-editor Samuel Cornish for a period in 1827. 

Articles cover topics relevant to African-Americans at the time including essays condemning slavery and other racial injustices.  The paper also contained notices of marriages, births and deaths and other information specific to the free Black community in New York as well as news from the U.S. and abroad.  Frequent topics included current events in Haiti, biographies of prominent African-Americans, education and emigration.  Needless to say editorials often dealt with the most controversial issues of the time and were not afraid to take unpopular stances.  Some writers, like David Walker, were bold enough to advocate violent rebellion on the part of Black Americans and authors made clear reference to the ironies and hypocrisies of American Slavery by using article titles like "Land of Liberty" when addressing the issue of runaway slaves.[1]

This collection is not only a primary source referencing issues concerning slavery and emancipation; it is also a clear example of Black activism during the antebellum period.  The paper references events, such as the Haitian Revolution, French Revolution and abolition in French Colonies as inspirational to its writers and editors.  Authors clearly had an audience of free Blacks in mind and make a clear effort to create a sense of unity in the Black community through the use of "we," "our" and "our brethren" when referencing African Americans and their actions.[2]  Editorials advocate activism and initiative in the Black community, both free and enslaved.  The publication was distributed by individuals with an agenda and a very clear purpose in mind and so would be an extremely rich source for researchers studying a wide range of topics in American History.

All 103 issues of Freedom's Journal are available publicly and electronically on the Wisconsin Historical Society's webpage.

The issues are arranged chronologically and page images can be viewed easily as PDF files through the website.  Unfortunately, there is no table of contents, listing of articles or search engine through which to uncover specific topics, so finding information relevant to one's research could prove time consuming.  The page images are of generally good quality and most can be read if enlarged a little bit in Adobe.  Certain sections of text are unreadable, but they are generally small and never make it impossible to understand the gist of an entire article or section. 

[1] "Land of Liberty," Freedom's Journal, (Vol. 2 no. 36 Dec. 5 1828).

[2] Ibid.