March 16, 1827 — Rev. Peter Williams, Jr.’s Freedom’s Journal began publishing today in New York.
The first African-American-owned and operated newspaper published in the US, Williams was on a mission to write articles that would appeal to the 300,000 free blacks in the north cities who had been freed after the American Revolutionary War by state abolition laws. Its editorials opposed slavery and other injustices. It also discussed current issues, such as the proposal by the American Colonization Society to resettle free blacks in Liberia, a colony established for that purpose in West Africa.
Williams also published biographies of prominent blacks, and listings of the births, deaths, and marriages in the African-American community in New York. It circulated in 11 states, the District of Columbia, Haiti, Europe, and Canada.In its heyday, the newspaper employed 44 subscription agents, including David Walker, an abolitionist in Boston.
Did you know: Manumissions in the south after the war increased the proportion of free blacks from less than 1% to nearly 10% of the black population in the Upper South. In New York State, a gradual emancipation law was passed in 1799, granting freedom to children born to slaves. Its “gradual” provisions meant that the last slaves were not freed until 1827, the year the paper was founded.
By this time, the US and Great Britain had banned the African slave trade in 1808. But, slavery was expanding rapidly in the deep south with the development of new cotton plantations there; a massive forced migrationhad been under way as a result of the domestic slave trade, as slaves were sold and taken overland or by sea from the upper south to the new territories.
Words of Wisdom
No people in the world profess so high a respect for liberty and equality as the people of the United States, and yet no people hold so many slaves, or make such great distinctions between man and man.