Genius of Universal Emancipation

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Nameplate from the October 1833 issue

The Genius of Universal Emancipation was an abolitionist newspaper from Baltimore, Maryland, run by Benjamin Lundy.

Elihu Embree established the Manumission Intelligencier in 1819 which became The Emancipator in 1820. In 1821 the paper was bought by Benjamin Lundy and renamed Genius of Universal Emancipation, running from 1821 to 1839 under Lundy's editorship. Lundy's contributions reflected his Quaker views, condemning slavery on moral and religious grounds but advocating gradual emancipation and the removal of Negroes from the United States. Lundy moved the paper to Jonesboro, Tennessee in 1823, and then established himself in Baltimore, Maryland in 1824, where most of the paper's run would be published.

In 1829, Lundy recruited the young William Lloyd Garrison to join him in Baltimore, Maryland and help him edit the paper. Garrison's experience as a printer and newspaper editor allowed him to revamp the layout of the paper and free Lundy to spend more time traveling as an antislavery speaker. Garrison, who had been converted to abolitionism by one of Lundy's northern speaking tours, initially shared Lundy's gradualist views, but, while working for the Genius, he became convinced of the need to demand immediate and complete emancipation. Lundy and Garrison continued to work together on the paper in spite of their differing views, agreeing simply to sign their editorials to indicate who had written it.

One of the regular features that Garrison introduced during his time at the Genius was "the Black List," a column devoted to printing short reports of "the barbarities of slavery—kidnappings, whippings, murders." One of Garrison's "Black List" columns reported that a shipper from Garrison's home town of Newburyport, Massachusetts—one Francis Todd—was involved in the slave trade, and that he had recently had slaves shipped from Baltimore to New Orleans on his ship Francis. Todd filed a suit for libel against both Garrison and Lundy, filing in Maryland in order to secure the favor of pro-slavery courts. The state of Maryland also brought criminal charges against Garrison, quickly finding him guilty and ordering him to pay a fine of $50 and court costs. (Charges against Lundy were dropped on the grounds that he had been traveling and not in control of the newspaper when the story was printed.) Garrison was unable to pay the fine and was sentenced to a jail term of six months. He was released after seven weeks when the antislavery philanthropist Arthur Tappan donated the money for the fine, but Garrison had decided to leave Baltimore and he and Lundy amicably agreed to part ways. Garrison returned to New England, and soon began his own abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator. After Garrison's departure, Lundy mounted a failed attempt to relocate the newspaper to Washington, DC, and eventually ceased publication in 1835 in order to move to Philadelphia and begin a new newspaper. In 1839, Lundy revived the Genius and printed one more issue before he died of a fever on August 22, 1839.

See also[edit]


  • Mayer, Henry. All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery. ISBN 0-312-25367-2.
  • The Genius of Universal Emancipation
  • Vocal Abolitionism and The Genius of Universal Emancipation
  • Benjamin Lundy, Quaker Abolitionist
  • Vaughn, Stephen L. (editor) Encyclopedia of American Journalism (Routledge, 2009) p. 4