In honor of Black History Month, we present to you the first black newspaper in American history: Freedom's Journal.
Founded in 1827 in New York City, the first edition of the Journal summed up a great many of the reasons for the continuing, vital existence of the black press.
"We wish to plead our own cause," the editors wrote. "Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the publick been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly."
Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm served as the top two editors of the Journal, which was founded the same year that slavery was abolished in New York. They were explicit in their desire to counter the steady stream of racist reporting coming out of the city's other papers. Subscriptions cost $3 a year, and the paper tried to give a comprehensive look at the day's news.
The third edition of the paper -- the front page of which is reprinted below -- shows the variety that could be found in its pages. On the front page, readers were given a section of the memoirs of a black boat captain who was descended from African slaves; a long column about slavery; and musings on "Cures for Drunkenness."
Though it only had around 800 subscribers a week, the Journal was so prized that it was spread far and wide throughout the country, as a letter from a Southerner to the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator attested:
A few years since, being in a slave state, I chanced one morning, very early, to look through the curtains of my chamber window, wich opened upon a back yard. I saw a mulatto with a newspaper in his hand, surrounded by a score of colored men, who were listening, open mouthed, to a very inflammatory article the yellow man was reading ... I afterwards learned that the paper was published in New York, and addressed to the blacks.
The Journal lasted until 1829; by then, Russwurm had become the editor, as well as a staunch supporter of the so-called "colonization" movement, which advocated that black Americans leave the country and move to Africa. The public did not share his fervor, and he shut the paper down and moved to Liberia instead.