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The Black-owned newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, was founded on this day in 1827. That same year, slavery was abolished. Then, the free Black men of New York City including executive editors Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm founded Freedom’s Journal to counter racist reports in the press and fight for Black liberation.
Records of the press from around the 1800s reflect what society was like at the time which was … well … racist. Even after all the things we achieved upon being freed from slavery like the chartering of our first HBCUs and the election of our first Black Senator, Hiram R. Revels, we were still labeled in headlines as criminal and unkempt.
Being we were segregated in nearly all aspects of society, journalism was also a space we were excluded from. As a result, we weren’t represented because white people were controlling the narrative. Reports were often heavily tainted with racial bias within the descriptions of events and the derogatory headlines. For example, the Montgomery Advertiser covered lynchings in the 1870s and had since apologized for feeding a false narrative that the victims were guilty or deserved what happened to them, reported Associated Press.
Unsurprisingly, this was pretty common, especially among the southern papers who have since apologized for their previously racist reporting. That’s why the creation of the Black press was so important. Preceding Freedom’s Journal was The Colored American (1837-1841) and Weekly Advocate (1837).
Freedom’s Journal served as both an information hub for Black people and a tool of activism. Freedom’s Journal held job listings, school listings, birthdays, wedding announcements as well as pieces advocating for the right to vote, highlighting Black achievements and educating readers on politics and government, per PBS.
Additional reports helped Black people in America stay informed about what was happening in regions outside the US including Haiti and various African countries. However, the idea of connecting Black people back to Africa through literature turned into a “colonization” movement to literally bring freed Black people back to the motherland, per Black Past. People began losing interest in reading and due to a loss of circulation, Freedom’s Journal ceased publication in 1829.
The Journal did leave the door open for more Black writers to continue Black journalism, though. Frederick Douglass’ Paper, The Christian Recorder and Chicago Defender are a few of many examples as to how Black people continued to share the stories of our community and pair our journalism with the movement toward racial equality. Now, we have major bodies of journalistic work like The 1619 Project, Black women anchors on nearly every major news broadcasting station and hundreds of Black media outlets dedicated to telling our stories – including yours truly.
This content was originally published here.