Inquirer celebrates 29 years of providing black news

June 08, 2004
On March 21, 1827, the Black Press in America was born with the founding of the first black published newspaper, Freedom’s Journal. With the simple printed message—”We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”—did its editor John B. Russwurm and the Rev. Samuel Cornish embark on their crusade to agitate ruthlessly against the inhumanity of slavery. Though Freedom’s Journal was only a four page tabloid, 10" x 15" in size, it was a giant of its time, establishing a tradition of hard hitting journalism that was to be emulated time and time again during the years that followed.
     That this black newspaper ever saw print in the first place is something of a miracle in and of itself, considering the great length that America took to keep the black masses illiterate and untrained in all but the most menial skills. It is a tribute to the tenacity and determination of those stout black souls, many of them freed slaves, who succeeded in securing for themselves sufficient education to become great orators, poets, and writers, capable of chronicling the moving accounts of their former lives under bondage. They were indeed a voice of conscience and courage for their down-trodden and powerless brothers and sisters who, under the threat of great bodily harm, were forced to endure untold miseries in silence.
     When Russworm left Freedom’s Journal in 1828 to undertake a career as editor and government official in Liberia, Cornish continued publishing the weekly under the name of Rights for All until late 1829, when it folded. As this pioneer journalistic effort disappeared from the scene, other black newspapers, spurred on by its brief success and huge impact, sprang to replace it. Among them were Appeal in 1829, published out of Boston by David Walker, who advocated eliminating slavery through violence, and Hope of Liberty published by George Moses Horton in Raleigh. In all, some 40 struggling black newspapers surfaced during the period between 1827 and 1865, each addressing the issue of slavery in its own unique style.