North Star (anti-slavery newspaper)

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June 2, 1848 issue
February 22, 1856 issue
For other newspapers named North Star, see North Star (disambiguation)#Newspapers

North Star was a nineteenth-century anti-slavery newspaper published in the United States by abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The paper commenced publication on December 3, 1847 and ceased as the North Star in June 1851 when it merged with Gerrit Smith's Liberty Party Paper (based in Syracuse, New York) to form Frederick Douglass' Paper.[1] The North Star's slogan was "Right is of no Sex--Truth is of no Color--God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren."[2]


In 1845, Frederick Douglass was first inspired to publish the North Star after subscribing to The Liberator, a weekly newspaper published by William Lloyd Garrison. The Liberator was a newspaper established by Garrison and his supporters founded upon moral principles.[1] The North Star title was a reference to the directions given to runaway slaves trying to reach the Northern states and Canada: Follow the North Star.[3] Published weekly, the North Star was four pages long and sold by subscription at the cost of $2 per year to more than 4,000 readers in the United States, Europe, and the West Indies. The first of its four pages focused on current events concerning abolitionist issues.[4]

The leading perspective of the Garrisonians focused on the Constitution as a pro-slavery document, the non-violent approach of emancipation of slaves by moral suasion, and the dissolution of the Union.[5] Under the guidance of the abolitionist society, Douglass became well acquainted with the pursuit of the emancipation of slaves through a New England religious perspective.[6] Garrison had earlier convinced the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society to hire Douglass as an agent, touring with Garrison and telling audiences about his experiences in slavery.” Douglass worked with another abolitionist, Martin R. Delany, who traveled to lecture, report, and generate subscriptions to the North Star.[3]

Douglass viewpoints[edit]

Douglass’ thoughts toward political inaction changed when he attended the National Convention of Colored Citizens, an antislavery convention in Buffalo, New York, in August 1843. One of the many speakers present at the convention was Henry Highland Garnet. Formerly a slave in Maryland, Garnet was a Presbyterian minister who supported violent action against slaveholders. Garnet's demands of independent action addressed to the American slaves remained one of the leading issues of change for Douglass.

During a nineteen-month stay in Britain and Ireland, several of Douglass’ supporters bought his freedom and assisted with the purchase of a printing press. With this assistance Douglass was determined to begin an African-American newspaper that would engage the anti-slavery movement politically. On his return to the United States in March 1847, Douglass shared his ideas of the North Star with his mentors. Ignoring the advice of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Douglass moved to Rochester, New York to publish the first edition. When questioned on his decision to create the North Star, Douglass is said to have responded,

"I still see before me a life of toil and trials..., but, justice must be done, the truth must be told...I will not be silent."[7]

With this conflict of interests, Douglass was able to achieve an unconstrained independence to write freely on topics that covered his analysis of the Constitution as an antislavery document, his desires for political action necessary to bring emancipation, and the support of the women’s rights movement.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b David B. Chesebrough, Frederick Douglass; Oratory from Slavery, (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998), 16-18.
  2. ^ "The North Star (Reason): American Treasures of the library of Congress". 
  3. ^ a b ""Abolitionist Movement." History Net: Where History Comes Alive.". 
  4. ^ "The North Star (American Newspaper) --Encyclopedia Britannica". 
  5. ^ William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1991), 84-206.
  6. ^ William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1991), 15-16.
  7. ^ William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1991), 146-147.
  8. ^ William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1991), 76-77.


  • Ira Berlin, "Who Freed the Slaves; Emancipation and Its Meaning", in Blight and Simpson ed. Union and Emancipation; Essays on Politics and Race in the Civil War Era (Kent, Kent State University Press, 1234), p121.

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