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Anti-Slavery Newspapers

Anti-Slavery Newspapers


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In 1821 Benjamin Lundy, began publishing the anti-slavery newspaper, Genius of Universal Emancipation. Over the next thirty years there were over twenty radical newspapers that tended to concentrate on the issue of slavery and civil rights. This included The Liberator (William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Weston Chapman), The Free Enquirer (Fanny Wright and Robert Dale Owen), The Philanthropist (James Birney), North Star (Frederick Douglass), Freedom's Journal (Samuel E. Cornish), The Mystery (Martin Robinson Delany), Emancipator and Public Moralsand Mirror of Liberty(David Ruggles), Commonwealth (Julia Ward Howe and Samuel Gridley Howe), Colored American (James W. Pennington), St. Louis Observer (Elijah P. Lovejoy), National Anti-Slavery Standard (Lydia Maria Child), Palladium of Liberty (Charles Langston), National Watchman (Henry Highland Garnet), Pittsburgh Saturday Visiter and St. Cloud Visiter (Jane Grey Swisshelm), Cleveland True Democrat and the Aliened American (William Howard Day) and Pennsylvania Freeman (John Greenleaf Whittier).

These newspapers were published locally but received support from the national Anti-Slavery Society. They included speeches from Radical Republicans in Congress, passages from sermons, excerpts from slave narratives, reports on anti-slavery meetings and details of future events. Editors of these newspapers were often attacked and on 7th November, 1837, Elijah P. Lovejoy was killed while attempting to protect his printing press from a pro-slavery mob.


The Abolitionist Movement: His-Story and Her-Story

Controversial Header to William Lloyd Garrison’s Paper

The Liberator

During abolitionist times, there were many newspapers published that dealt with the movement. They varied in publication and distribution, but they all conveyed a similar message: and end to slavery and equality for blacks. One of the most recognized newspapers is “The Liberator” written by William Lloyd Garrison. The Liberator began publication on January 1, 1831, and did not stop until 1865. In the first issue, Garrison said:

“I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation….I am in earnest. I will not equivocate–I will not excuse–I will not retreat a single inch–AND I WILL BE HEARD.”

This quote is representative of the typical abolitionist mindset. These people knew that what they were doing may put them in danger, but they continued doing it anyway because they wanted to support the cause that they so deeply believed in. Abolitionists often faced criticism for their beliefs, because they were surrounded by others who supported slavery and did not want it to end. Garrison was no different, and he spent over thirty years putting his own safely in danger to convey his message.

At the age of only 25, William Lloyd Garrison joined the American Colonization Society, but eventually felt that he would be better suited towards the abolitionist movement. Eventually, he decided that the best way to spread his message would be to publish a newspaper. While writing The Liberator, Garrison believed that slaves should be freed and immediately be allowed to mix with society. Beginning in 1831, The Liberator continued publication until 1865, not once missing a single issue (which totaled 1,820). In its early years, The Liberator was only circulated among about 400 individuals, many of whom were already black abolitionists themselves, but it would grow to be a very well-known abolitionist publication.

In addition to The Liberator, Garrison spent some of his time forming societies (groups of like-minded individuals all interested in putting and end to slavery). One of the most notable was the New England Anti-Slavery Society. After attracting different sorts of followers, many began to have conflicting ideas with Garrison. Those that did went on and formed a new society, the American Anti-Slavery Society. Another riff that Garrison found himself in the middle of was one that took place between himself and Frederick Douglas. Unfortunately, the pair that was once very close and would work hand in hand, would never come to an agreement and their partnership was never reconciled.

Many Americans supported Garrison and other abolitionists, but at the same time many did not. To gain support for his cause, Garrison spent some of his time traveling overseas to gain foreign support when that from back home was not strong. (Also while overseas, Garrison tried to solicit funds for the construction of a manual labor school for black youth.) While in America, Garrison did some things that upset many people and lead to his well-being being placed in danger. For instance, he once publicly burned a copy of the Constitution because it allowed for slavery to continue. Doing so resulted in a $4,000 bounty being placed on his head. Garrison also placed a header on his paper that many Americans did not agree with–it portrayed the scene of a slave auction happing near the Capitol. (Instances like this were common for Garrison, and because of that he would never be found in the same location for a long period of time.)

Click here for select editions of Garrison’s “The Liberator.”

Letter Written by Garrison Asking for Money to Build a Manual Labor School for Black Youth


Anti-Slavery Newspapers - History


VICTORY! EMANCIPATION AT LAST!

"The Morning Star" eventually prospered as opposition waned as more members and those outside the denomination began to realize what a great evil slavery was in a nation that had declared that all men were created equal. The newspaper had made a decisive impact on the subject in New Hampshire, and Dover was the first city in the state to send to the state Legislature members who espoused strong anti-slavery sentiment. And of course Dover's John Parker Hale, once a Democrat but now out of the party because of his anti-slavery stand, would become the first anti-slavery Senator elected to Congress.

The Gazette never gave up in its opposition, though, and its diatribes against the Star continued until the end of the Civil War. Eventually, William Burr triumphed in his war against the evils of slavery. His newspaper was a leader at a time when the struggle was unpopular. He was able to say at the denomination's general conference in 1865:

"Since the last conference the Star has had the unspeakable joy of announcing the most important event of the nineteenth century. viz. the overthrow and, as we hope in God, the final death of American slavery, for which it has so long and arduously labored, and ardently hoped and prayed, but which at times it has almost despaired of living to see."

Burr had lived to see his great struggle triumph. But he died the next year, on November 5, 1866. His death was sudden. In contrast to the violent opposition that had railed against him in earlier years, it seemed as if the whole city turned out for his funeral. The mayor and other city officials were at the service in the packed Washington Street Freewill Baptist Church (now Dover Baptist). Stores in downtown Dover closed some of the newspapers which had lambasted him for his stand on slavery were kinder this day. Times had changed.

Burr lies in the same plot in Dover's Pine Hill Cemetery in which six of his children preceded him. His wife Frances would follow in 1895. "The Morning Star" eventually moved its operation to Boston.

About the Author
Ed Wentworth moved to Dover from Newton, NH in 1936 when he was five. He returned to Dover in 1993 after 25 years as a journalist at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He is the author of "Vital Records 1790-1828 from Dover, NH's First Newspaper."

Photo of Burr: From "The Life of William Burr" printed in 1871.

Sources: "The Life of William Burr (1871), the Dover Gazette & Strafford Advertiser, The Morning Star, Reports of the Freewill Baptist Anti-Slavery Society, Freewill Baptist meeting records.

Copyright © 1998 SeacoastNH.com and Ed Wentworth. Please attribute all refernces..

Willam Burr, the anit-slavery editor of Dover NH's radical "Morning Star" newspaper, lived to see his lifelong dream of emancipation come true. He died the following year and is buried in Dover.

Home of "The Morning Star" Dover, NH's 19th century anti-slavery newspaper as it appeared in 1868. An engraving of the Freewill Baptist Printing Establishment from "Free Baptist Cyclopaedia," published in 1889. This building stood on Washington Street at the junction of Locust in Dover, NH. It was torn down in 1970 to create a parking lot.


The Subversives

Not sure about you, but I tend to think of abolition, the move to end slavery, and the Underground Railroad, the escape from it, as the entire story of those who fought back.

Stanley Harrold, in his 2003 book, Subversives, Antislavery Community in Washington, D.C. 1828–1865, reminds us that D.C. was the center of a multifaceted, biracial effort to jam the gears of slavery in the region surrounding the Chesapeake bay.

During much of the period covered in the book, the District of Columbia (D.C.), comprised a swath of Virginia, including the city of Alexandria.

D . C. was nestled between the slaves states of Virginia and Maryland and itself allowed slavery, much to the consternation of John Quincy Adams, Joshua Giddings and other members of Congress.

Both Washington and Alexandria were the locations of slave pens and notorious auctions with enslaved blacks being sold south and southwest.

But there were thousands of free blacks in the city, some middle class, and they, along with a cohort of anti-slavery whites, formed a biracial community adopting a varied approach to slavery disruption:

-Universal emancipation or abolition

-Assisting escapees from the Chesapeake region and further south on their way north

-Buying the freedom of slaves about to be sold south

-Contesting “ownership” of blacks in the federal court system

-Forcing Congress to stop slave auctions in the city

-Starting schools to educate free blacks

-Assisting newly freed blacks

It’s as messy and complicated a story as you would expect with so many competing goals (and egos.)

Each objective had variants and was also often in conflict with other objectives.

Looming over it all was the idea that free blacks should leave the U.S. and migrate to Liberia, Africa, a movement called “colonization” of which Abraham Lincoln was a prominent member.

The white contingent was both influenced and populated by men and women from Western New York and northeastern Ohio, an area known as the “Burned Over District” referring to religious revivalism and radicalism in the early 19th-century. Joshua Giddings, a member of Congress from that area, was a fearless opponent of slavery.

Myrtilla Miner, a northern white woman, moved to Washington and started a school for young black girls. She, like many whites, could be patronizing and preachy towards her students and their parents, yet she took real risks pushing back against the anti-slavery community.

There has been an elementary school named after her in the northeast part of the city for over 100 years.

Thomas Smallwood, a former slave who lived and worked in Washington, is a central character in the early Underground Railroad movement for several reasons. He joined with Charles Torrey, a white abolitionist, to plan and carry out slave escapes. He was also an established black man in the city who worked at the Navy Yard, owned property and started a literacy effort. Smallwood apparently enjoyed a bit of bravado about his activities, especially when it came to outsmarting slavecatchers. Even he favored African Colonization in the 1820's.

Black churches, black newspapers and the abolitionist press served as key institutions. Black churches functioned as dominions of anti-slavery power but association with anti-slavery newspapers was always a dangerous business because they were targeted for destruction.

Mt. Zion church, the oldest black church in the city, is located about a mile from my home. The church cemetery, which I walk by frequently, was said to be a stop on the Underground Railroad.

It’s a sure thing to say that all the anti-slavery participants were courageous and radicalized around a human rights ideal.

They were quirky, unyielding, combative and insistent a positive force for change.

Stanley Harrold documents that a great social movement need be neither neat nor coordinated to triumph in the end, dedication to an ideal is the essential requirement.


19th century anti-slavery newspaper revived to discuss race today

The Emancipator, one of the nation's first antislavery newspapers of the 19th century, is being revived as part of a new project to discuss and debate racial justice in the U.S. today.

Why it matters: The partnership between the Boston Globe Opinion and Boston University's Center for Antiracism Research comes amid pressure for new media outlets to cover issues around race and ethnicity.

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Driving the news: The Boston Globe's editorial page editor Bina Venkataraman and Boston University professor and author Ibram X. Kendi unveiled plans for The Emancipator in a social media video while speaking at the historic African Meeting House in Boston on Tuesday.

"The Emancipator aims to resurrect and reimagine anti-slavery publications in the 19th century for the 21st century and the movement to achieve racial justice," Venkataraman said.

"That call for freedom has continued to echo since the American Revolution, and I think that call for freedom will continue to echo in The Emancipator," said Kendi, author of "How to Be an Antiracist."

The intrigue: The Emancipator will feature a new newsletter on race and justice edited by Boston Globe columnist Kimberly Atkins.

Its advisory board will consist of Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Sewell Chan, URL Media co-founder S. Mitra Kalita and University of California, Berkeley law professor Ian F. Haney López.

The Emancipator says it currently is searching for two editors to help run the project.

The big picture: The revival of The Emancipator comes as a number of Black and Latino newspapers and magazines have closed in recent years because of increased costs of production and competition from mobile apps.

Activist Shaun King came under scrutiny over his financial dealings to recreate abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ newspaper, The North Star, as an online venture.

Flashback: The Boston Globe, then led by editor Martin Baron, won the 2003 Pulitzer prize for its investigation into the Catholic Church sexual abuse legacy.

But Baron also faced criticism from the paper's journalists of color after a hiring spree of 19 all-white staffers that the Black and Latino reporters called "the 19-o shutout."

A few years later after a series of buyouts, Baron again faced scrutiny when 11 more all-white staffers were hired and few editors of color were left.

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Why The Emancipator, a 19th-century antislavery newspaper, is getting a modern-day revival

An abolitionist newspaper founded in 1820 is coming to a 21st-century digital audience, after more than 100 years out of print. The Boston University Center for Antiracist Research and Boston Globe Opinion are collaborating to revive The Emancipator at a time when the U.S. is grappling with how to frame the national conversation about racism .

"We have a great need to achieve a racially-just society," Boston Globe Editorial Page Editor Bina Venkataraman told CBSN Thursday. "We have to point not just to the problems of racial injustice and systemic racism, but we have to be able to point to the solutions &mdash the ways we get there, and to reframe narratives in important ways."

Venkataraman is pioneering The Emancipator's revival alongside Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. The publication plans to launch its newsroom later this year and aims to "amplify critical voices, ideas, debates, and evidence-based opinion in an effort to hasten racial justice," according to a news release.

"I think in the case of The Emancipator, we are going to truly be evidence-based, we really want to marry journalism and scholarship," Kendi said. "We feel that having scholarship in journalism will bring out the best of the written word."

The Emancipator was first published in Tennessee by Elihu Ebree, a White man who had freed all the enslaved people living on his land. According to Boston University, it may have been the first antislavery newspaper in the country. It was founded in 1820, 45 years before slavery was outlawed.

The Emancipator was just one abolitionist newspaper circulating in the country in the mid-1800s. Others included The Liberator and The North Star &mdash the latter of which was published by African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass .

Trending News

"A lot of what those abolitionist-era newspapers were doing was arguing and articulating the reasons why abolition needed to be urgently achieved in the United States," Venkataraman said.

An example of why that same urgency is needed today, she explained, can be seen in the national conversations surrounding COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

"There is a dominant narrative in the media that there is vaccine hesitancy among communities of color and people of color," she said.

However, an NPR poll found that Black Americans are no less likely to be hesitant about the vaccine than White people &mdash meaning the real disparity could lie in access.

"Maybe this is more of an issue of how we make it possible for people to have vaccines, how we deal with health inequities in the country," Venkataraman said.

Kendi also said, "We want to allow our opinion journalists to be able to see and lean on this research that will be at their fingertips, because they will be constantly in conversation with researchers and scholars who are also contributing to The Emancipator."

However, The Emancipator will no longer only center on the struggles of Black Americans, but communities of color in the United States.

In the wake of the horrific killings of eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at three Atlanta-area spas this week, Kendi said opening up a dialogue about the pervasiveness of anti-Asian racism and violence is "the first step in bringing people justice."

"I think it's part of this larger phenomenon of anti-Asian racism," he said. "And I think it is part of a larger phenomenon of racism, and it just goes to show how expansive, how intricate, how complex, how variegated racism is, which then calls forth the need for a publication like The Emancipator that will examine and provide opinion on many different forms of racism that the United States is still experiencing to this day."


Anti-Slavery Newspapers - History

WHITE NH ABOLITIONISTS

It was called The Morning Star. But what was an anti-slavery newspaper doing in a Seacoast town largely dependent on the cotton trade? Ask William Burr, the feisty editor who refused to give up the fight against slavery. Veteran writer and Dover historian Ed Wentworth tells a rarely told tale of NH black history.

BURR TAKES CHARGE

Dover, New Hampshire seemed an unlikely place for an anti-slavery movement beginning in the 1830s. After all, the town had huge mills using millions of bales of cotton produced in the South by slave labor.

But Dover was the site of a radical tenaciously anti-slavery newspaper produced by Freewill Baptists. Its publishers stuck to their guns despite opposition, even within their own denomination, eventually winning over those who thought then that slavery was a subject outside the realm of religious discussion.

The newspaper was "The Morning Star." It had been published in Limerick, Maine, before moving to Dover in 1833 because of its more convenient location. Established in 1826, by the time it moved to Dover one of its up-and-coming stars was William Burr, then on its publishing committee.

But the newspaper was not involving itself in the anti-slavery movement. Its editor, Samuel Beede, wrote an article called "Slavery and Abolition," in which he stated that, although slavery was evil, the North was as guilty as the South. He denounced the course of emancipationists and "counseled the exercise of moderation and charity."

But Beede died suddenly on March 28, 1834. It was the last time such counsel would appear in "The Morning Star," because William Burr was named editor and the newspaper launched into a campaign to abolish slavery and continued its campaign until the close of the Civil War.

The anti-slavery position was a bold decision by Burr. After all, this was essentially a religious newspaper and many thought it had no business delving into social issues. Burr thought of slavery as a moral and religious issue as well, and he led a concerted campaign against the evil.

BAD TIMES FOR THE STAR

It nearly ruined the newspaper financially. Subscriptions plummeted. The shrinkage continued for about two years. State officials refused incorporation papers because of its anti-slavery stance mail brought abusive letters from all across the denomination many wanted to force the editor to take a more moderate position.

When the General Conference of Freewill Baptists met in Greenville, RI in 1837, members attempted to water down "The Morning Star's" position "so as to avert from the denomination the public odium heaped upon abolitionists, and to reconcile the disaffected members." The delegates refused.

The paper's board of trustees chose principle over policy and decided to continue their anti-slavery campaign. So even though financially strapped, the struggle continued. That didn't stop opposition, however, and Burr's biographer says " . . . there continued both in and out of the denomination a deep-seated opposition to the anti-slavery positions of the Star, and there were those, ministers and laymen, who were untiring in their efforts to effect a change."

Isaac D. Stewart, who in 1851 wrote a history of the denomination's anti-slavery society, had kinder words. He wrote, "As our patriotic fathers, in their struggle for liberty, stood undismayed through the darkest gloom of our country's adversity, so the body of the denomination at this time proved themselves worthy of their noble ancestry, in opposing a system of oppression, with which British aggression bore no comparison."

The most outspoken opposition to the paper's position came from none other than the leading Democratic newspaper in town, The "Dover Gazette and Strafford Advertiser." It advised the Star to stick to the business for which it was designed instead of being "intermingled with Politics, Abolition, and the Lord knows what, until some of the most respectable members, Elders and others of their own persuasion, have become disgusted . . ."

There was continued fear of violence and police protection was used, but no documented evidence of racial incidents have been found. This was, ultimately, a white protest in a white NH town where blacks, mostly domestics, comprised a small percentage of the population. When Abraham Lincoln visited Dover in his run for President on March 2, 1860, he spoke at city hall across the street from the newspaper headquarters. William Burr, among others, was invited to sit on the speaker's platform with Lincoln.


19th century anti-slavery newspaper revived to discuss race today

The Emancipator, one of the nation's first antislavery newspapers of the 19th century, is being revived as part of a new project to discuss and debate racial justice in the U.S. today.

Why it matters: The partnership between the Boston Globe Opinion and Boston University's Center for Antiracism Research comes amid pressure for new media outlets to cover issues around race and ethnicity.

Driving the news: The Boston Globe's editorial page editor Bina Venkataraman and Boston University professor and author Ibram X. Kendi unveiled plans for The Emancipator in a social media video while speaking at the historic African Meeting House in Boston on Tuesday.

  • "The Emancipator aims to resurrect and reimagine anti-slavery publications in the 19th century for the 21st century and the movement to achieve racial justice," Venkataraman said.
  • "That call for freedom has continued to echo since the American Revolution, and I think that call for freedom will continue to echo in The Emancipator," said Kendi, author of "How to Be an Antiracist."

The intrigue: The Emancipator will feature a new newsletter on race and justice edited by Boston Globe columnist Kimberly Atkins.

  • Its advisory board will consist of Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Sewell Chan, URL Media co-founder S. Mitra Kalita and University of California, Berkeley law professor Ian F. Haney López.
  • The Emancipator says it currently is searching for two editors to help run the project.

The big picture: The revival of The Emancipator comes as a number of Black and Latino newspapers and magazines have closed in recent years because of increased costs of production and competition from mobile apps.

  • Activist Shaun King came under scrutiny over his financial dealings to recreate abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ newspaper, The North Star, as an online venture.

Flashback: The Boston Globe, then led by editor Martin Baron, won the 2003 Pulitzer prize for its investigation into the Catholic Church sexual abuse legacy.


Collections

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive: Part I: Debates over Slavery and Abolition

Part I: Debates over Slavery and Abolition sheds light on the abolitionist movement, the conflicts within it, the anti- and pro-slavery arguments of the period, and the debates on the subject of colonization. It explores all facets of the controversial topic, with a focus on economic, gender, legal, religious, and government issues.

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive: Part II: Slave Trade in the Atlantic World

Part II: The Slave Trade in the Atlantic World charts the inception of slavery in Africa and its rise as perpetuated on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, placing particular emphasis on the Caribbean, Latin America, and United States. More international in scope than Part I, this collection was developed by an international editorial board with scholars specializing in North American, European, African, and Latin American/Caribbean aspects of the slave trade.

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive: Part III: The Institution of Slavery

Further expanding the depth of coverage of the topic, Part III of this series explores, in vivid detail, the inner workings of slavery from 1492 to 1888. Through legal documents, plantation records, first-person accounts, newspapers, government records, and other primary sources, this collection reveals how enslaved people struggled against the institution. These rare works explore slavery as a legal and labor system, the relationship between slavery and religion, freed slaves, the Shong Masacre, the Dememara insurrection, and many other aspects and events.

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive: Part IV: Age of Emancipation

Part IV: Age of Emancipation includes numerous rare documents related to emancipation in the United States, as well as Latin America and the Caribbean. This collection supports the study of many areas, including activities of the federal government in dealing with former slaves and the Freedmen's Bureau, views of political parties and postwar problems with the South, documents of the British and French government on the slave trade, reports from the West Indies and Africa, and other topics.


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