- David N. Gellman
Freedom's Journal, published in New York City from 1827 to 1829, was the first African American newspaper in U.S. history. The newspaper employed sales agents from Washington, D.C., to Maine to build up a base of more than one thousand subscribers. The editors sought to advance a broad agenda of abolitionism, African American self-improvement, and cultural self-determination in an era that saw not only the virtual extinction of legal enslavement in the North but also increasingly virulent racism. A group of leading black New Yorkers encouraged Samuel Cornish, a Presbyterian minister, and John Brown Russwurm, one of the nation's first African American college graduates, to edit and publish the newspaper. The editors declared in the 16 March 1827 inaugural issue, “Too long have others spoken for us … it shall ever be our duty to vindicate our brethren, when oppressed,” opposing “daily slander” with “forcible arguments.”
A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619–1895.