Volume 1, no.3, 23 March 1827
|Publisher||Cornish & Russwurm|
|Editor||John B. Russwurm
|Founded||16 March 1827|
|Ceased publication||28 March 1829|
|Headquarters||New York City|
Freedom's Journal was the first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States. Founded by Rev. Peter Williams, Jr. and other free black men in New York City, it was published weekly starting with the 16 March 1827 issue. Freedom's Journal was superseded in 1829 by The Rights of All, published between 1829 and 1830 by Samuel Cornish, the former senior editor of the Journal.
The newspaper was founded by Peter Williams, Jr. and other leading free blacks in New York City. The founders intended to appeal to the 300,000 free blacks in the North of the United States, most freed after the American Revolutionary War by state abolition laws. Manumissions in the South after the war increased the proportion of free blacks from less than 1% to nearly 10% of the black population in the Upper South. In New York State, a gradual emancipation law was passed in 1799, granting freedom to children born to slaves. Its "gradual" provisions meant that the last slaves were not freed until 1827, the year the paper was founded.
By this time, the United States and Great Britain had banned the African slave trade in 1808. But, slavery was expanding rapidly in the Deep South with the development of new cotton plantations there; a massive forced migration had been under way as a result of the domestic slave trade, as slaves were sold and taken overland or by sea from the Upper South to the new territories.
The newspaper founders selected Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm as senior and junior editors, respectively. Both men were community activists: Cornish was the first to establish an African-American Presbyterian church and Russwurm was a member of the Haytian Emigration Society. This group recruited and organized free blacks to emigrate to Haiti after its slaves achieved independence in 1804. It was the second republic in the Western Hemisphere and the first free republic governed by blacks.
According to the nineteenth-century African-American journalist, Garland Penn, Cornish and Russwurm's objective with Freedom's Journal was to oppose New York newspapers that attacked African Americans and encouraged slavery. For example, Mordecai Noah wrote articles that degraded African Americans; other editors also wrote articles that mocked blacks and supported slavery. The New York economy was strongly intertwined with the South and slavery; in 1822 half of its exports were cotton shipments. Its upstate textile mills processed southern cotton.
The abolitionist press had focused its attention on opposing the paternalistic defense of slavery and the Southern culture's reliance on racist stereotypes. These typically portrayed slaves as children who needed the support of whites to survive or who were ignorant and happy as slaves. The stereotypes depicted blacks as inferior to whites and a threat to society if free.
Cornish and Russwurm argued in their first issue: "Too long have others spoken for us, too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations…."  They wanted the newspaper to strengthen the autonomy and common identity of African Americans in society. "We deem it expedient to establish a paper," they remarked, "and bring into operation all the means with which out benevolent creator has endowed us, for the moral, religious, civil and literary improvement of our race…."
Freedom's Journal provided international, national, and regional information on current events. Its editorials opposed slavery and other injustices. It also discussed current issues, such as the proposal by the American Colonization Society to resettle free blacks in Liberia, a colony established for that purpose in West Africa.
The Journal published biographies of prominent blacks, and listings of the births, deaths, and marriages in the African-American community in New York, helping celebrate their achievements. It circulated in 11 states, the District of Columbia, Haiti, Europe, and Canada.
Cornish left the paper and Russwurm began to promote colonization in Africa for American free blacks, as proposed by the American Colonization Society. His readers did not agree and abandoned the paper, which closed in 1829. It was superseded as The Rights of All, founded by Samuel E. Cornish, the first senior editor of the Journal. It published between 1829 and 1830.
- "Freedom's Journal", article on website for Stanley Nelson, The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords (documentary), PBS, 1998, accessed 30 May 2012
- Bacon, Jacqueline. The First African-American Newspaper: Freedom's Journal, Lexington Books, 2007, pp. 43-45
- Bacon (2007), Freedom's Journal, pp. 38-39
- "King Cotton: Dramatic Growth of the Cotton Trade", New York Divided: Slavery and the Civil War, 2007, New-York Historical Society, accessed 12 May 2012
- Rhodes, Jane. "The Visibility of Race and Media History," Critical Studies in Mass Communication. Routledge, 1993, p. 186.
- Rhodes (1993), "The Visibility of Race", p. 187
- Bacon (2007), Freedom's Journal, p. 43.
- Rhodes (1993), "The Visibility of Race," p. 187
- Bacon (2007), Freedom's Journal, p. 42
- Freedom's Journal, Wisconsin History
- Dann, Martin. The Black Press, 1827-1890: The Quest for National Identity. New York: G.P. Putnam Sons, 1971.
- Penn, I. Garland. The Afro-American Press and its Editors. Salem, New Hampshire: Ayer Company, Publishers, Inc., 1891.
- Vogel, Todd, ed. The Black Press: New Literary and Historical Essays, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2001.
- Yingling, Charlton W., "No One Who Reads the History of Hayti Can Doubt the Capacity of Colored Men: Racial Formation and Atlantic Rehabilitation in New York City’s Early Black Press, 1827-1841," Early American Studies 11, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 314–348.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Freedom's Journal.|
- Freedom's Journal, Wisconsin History, includes digitized facsimiles of all 103 issues.
- Newspapers: Freedom's Journal, article on website for The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords (90-min. documentary by Stanley Nelson), PBS, 1998