1827 - 1829
Freedom of the press remains a cornerstone of the U.S. republic. The ability to publish information that is disseminated to the masses is a powerful tool for generating public support or shedding light in dark places. That freedom is especially important for ethnic minorities who would otherwise be overlooked by the system. In the early half of the nineteenth century, the United States saw the rise of the first Black-owned and operated newspaper the Freedom's Journal.
Freedom's Journal came to fruition when abolitionist Rev. Peter Williams Jr. co-founded the paper with a group of free Black New Yorkers. Those revolutionary idealists came to together in common cause to establish a publication that not only served the Black community, but also contradicted the racist narratives written in mainstream publications. The first senior editor was Presbyterian minister Samuel Cornish and the Journal's first junior editor was John Russwurm. The journal printed its first issue newspaper’s on March 16, 1827. An image of that issue can be viewed here.
Editorials from around the world found their way into the Freedom's Journal as well as domestic news focusing on Black communities. With the Journal, Black writers had a legal platform to oppose slavery. Thanks to the visionaries who started the Freedoms Journal, other prominent Black publishers would have a guide to utilize while chasing their own dream. The most successful Black publisher John H. Johnson followed the Journal's path and founded Ebony and Jet Magazines. These two publications catered to Black audiences and propelled Johnson to Forbes 400 list of Richest Americans.
The Freedom's Journal may have been short lived, during the apex of its ascendancy the Journal's subscription rate was $3 per year and circulated in eleven states, the District of Columbia, Europe, the Caribbean, and Canada. The weekly four-page, four column Freedom Journal provided a necessary literary connection for the Black community.