SAMUEL E.CORNISH and JOHN RUSSWURM
1795-1858 & 1799-1851
John Russwurm and his partner, Samuel Cornish, founded the first black newspaper in America in 1827. The Free¬ dom Journal, the first record to emerge and develop as a written chronicle of black America, was the prototype for other influ¬ ential papers. Colored America was first printed in 1837, and The North Star was published by Frederick Douglass (see no. 14) in 1847.
Linking people in various African- American communities, The Freedom Jour¬ nal was the first paper to bring to light the details of lynchings, to disseminate aboli¬ tionist news, and to link America to Africa by reporting on social conditions on that continent as well.
To clarify the intent of their publica¬ tion, Russwurm and Cornish proclaimed their goals in their first editorial: “The publication of this journal; the expediency of its appearance at this time, when so many schemes are in action concerning our people — encourage us to come bold¬ ly before an enlightened publick (sic).
For we believe that a paper devoted to the dis¬ semination of useful knowledge among our brethren, and to their moral and reli¬ gious improvement, must meet with the cordial approbation of every friend of humanity…. We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the publick (sic) been deceived by misrepresentations in things which concern us dearly….”
Cornish and Russwurm lived by the same ideals that inspired their readers. Working tirelessly for the rights of all Americans, they used their journal and their lives to hasten the abolition of slavery and educate great men and women. Linked throughout the world on issues of rights and freedoms within African and African- American populations, their readers grew into a unified front that would eventually lead to freedom for all.