Freedoms Journal Book Review

Freedoms Journal Book Review


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Freedom’s Journal is a comprehensive study of the first

African-A=merican newspaper, which was founded in

the first half of the 19th Century



Books by Jacqueline Bacon


The Humblest May Stand Forth  / Freedom’s Journal: The First African-American Newspaper


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Freedom’s Journal

The First African-American Newspaper

By Jacqueline Bacon

Book Review by Kam Williams


While the Constitution declares that all men are born free and equal, the wise corporation of the city of Washington… see proper to proscribe the rights of a certain portion of the community… Ought such laws to exist? Ought Congress to allow Washington, the spot which alone of all others should be sacred to the rights of man… to be polluted by the footsteps of a slave? . . . Many who there plead for the equal rights of man, are the very men who… buy and sell their brethren like beasts of burden.” Excerpted from an 1827 editorial by John B. Russwurm (page 88)


Freedom’s Journal, the first African-American newspaper ever published in the United States, debuted on March 16, 1827. The short-lived periodical was the brainchild of two black men, Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm. The former was a Presbyterian minister who had been born free in Delaware, while the latter was a mulatto, the college-educated son of a white Jamaican plantation owner and one of his servants.

Although the pair printed the paper in New York City, their ambitious mission, as stated in the inaugural edition, was to reach the “five hundred thousand free people of color” spread across the country. And while Freedom’s Journal would fall far short of that goal and fold in 1829, it nevertheless must be credited with making a seminal contribution to the abolitionist movement by kickstarting a dialogue about the evils of slavery which would survive its unfortunate demise.

Cornish and Russwurm were visionaries who penned some surprisingly insightful editorials, given that they were writing early in the 19th century. While it cannot be definitively stated exactly why they created the paper, conventional wisdom, in part disputed here, stipulates that they were initially motivated to counter the daily diatribes of Mordecai Noah, owner of several tabloids, including the New York Enquirer.

They castigated Noah, a Jew who had taken to pumping out hateful pro-slavery propaganda, for pandering to racists in a way which was placing black folks in a very vulnerable state. In this representative op-ed, Cornish and Russwurm made a futile attempt to appeal to him as a member of an ethnic group which had suffered its share of discrimination:

“We should think, if Major Noah were a man of reflection, he would be the last to aggravate the wrongs of the oppressed. Has he forgotten that this is the only country in which the descendants of Abraham sustain a standing equal to that of the African? We should expect him to sympathize with the oppressed of every hue.

Thanks to Dr. Jacqueline Bacon, we now have an in-depth, scholarly analysis of the first African-American paper which establishes that there was no monolithic black mindset, but rather often competing attitudes about such prevailing, hot-button subjects as the back to Africa movement versus assimilation in the U.S., and gradualism and accommodation versus violent insurrection as the answer to enslavement.

The author, who has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas at Austin, is a syndicated journalist whose other progressive, thought-provoking books and articles have covered a cornucopia of topics ranging from reparations to rhetoric to religion. With the fairly exhaustive and painstakingly-researched Freedom’s Journal, she proves herself a gifted historian, for this engaging tome is an invaluable teaching tool for the ages, touching on more themes than can be satisfactorily addressed in this space. Don’t be surprised to get goose bumps or to be moved to tears periodically while revisiting the dawn of the black press, since many of the issues so eloquently and bravely addressed by ancestors Cornish and Russwurm way back when remain the cornerstone of concerns of vital interest to the African-American community today. For more information on author and her writings, visit her website:

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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P.B. Young, Newspaperman

Race, Politics, and Journalism in the New South, 1910-1962

By Henry Lewis Suggs

P.B. Young, the son of a former slave, published the Norfolk Journal and Guide , a black weekly, for more than 50 years, until his death in 1962. From a circulation of a few hundred in 1909 to a circulation of 75,000 during the 1950s, the Guide became the largest press in the South. This book explores P.B. Young’s personal history and charts his positions on a variety of social issues.

Historians have largely neglected the Guide and its editor. Henry Lewis Suggs, mainly using Young’s personal papers (heretofore closed to scholars) and the files of the Guide, fills that historiographical void  . . .The book will almost certainly remain the definitive study of P.B. Young.—David B. Parker,

Another neglected figure in black history has been rescued from obscurity in this biography of Plummer Bernard Young . . .Suggs has thoroughly researched his subject.—Theodore Kornweibel, Jr.

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A History of the Black Press By Armistead S. Pride and Clint C. Wilson II

In this work, Dr. Wilson chronicles the development of black newspapers in New York City and draws parallels to the development of presses in Washington, D.C., and in 46 of the 50 United States. He describes the involvement of the press with civil rights and the interaction of black and nonblack columnists who contributed to black- and white-owned newspapers. . . . Through reorganization and exhaustive research to ascertain source materials from among hundreds of original and photocopied documents, clippings, personal notations, and private correspondence in Dr. Pride’s files, Dr. Wilson completed this compelling and inspiring study of the black press from its inception in 1827 to 1997.

This is a major and noteworthy contribution to scholarship on the African American press. As Washington Post columnist Dorothy Gilliam concludes in the foreword, “Pride and Wilson’s comprehensive history is a lasting tribute to the men and women within the black press of both the past and the present and to those who will make it what it will be in the future.

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Bibliographic Checklist of African American Newspapers

By Barbara Henritze

This book contains a complete checklist of African American newspapers identified in all major bibliographic sources–newspaper directories, union lists, finding aids, African American bibliographies, yearbooks, and specifically African American newspaper sources. In short, it is a comprehensive checklist of every newspaper that has served African Americans since 1827—a total of 5,539 newspapers. For reference purposes the text is arranged in tabular format under the following headings: newspaper title, city and state of publication, frequency of publication, dates, and sources. Newspapers are listed by state and city, which are in alphabetical order, then, by city, in alphabetical order by title. The papers are again listed alphabetically in the index, this time in a single, comprehensive list which serves as the best fingertip reference to black newspapers in existence. This is a core book for any collection of African American reference materials.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 11 July 2006




Home Alternative Media & the Black Press  Education History of the Negro   Fifty Influential Figures 

Related files:  Negro Press  Negro Progress in American Education  Cornish and Russwurm  

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