This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day, including the Mexican War, Presidential and Congressional addresses, Congressional abstracts, business and commodity markets, the humanities, world travel and religion. The collection also provides a great number of early biographies, vital statistics, essays and editorials, poetry and prose, and advertisements all of which embody the African-American experience.
The collection comprises the following newspapers:
- The Christian Recorder (1861-1902) – The Christian Recorder embodied secular as well as religious material, and included good coverage of the black regiments together with the major incidents of the Civil War. The four-page weekly contained such departments as Religious Intelligence, Domestic News, General Items, Foreign News, Obituaries, Marriages, Notices and Advertisements. It also included the normal complement of prose and poetry found in the newspapers of the day.
- The Colored American/Weekly Advocate (January 7, 1837–December 25, 1841) – On January 7, 1837 Phillip A. Bell began to publish a weekly newspaper called Weekly Advocate. From the beginning, one of the major goals of this newspaper was to educate its subscribers, and much information appeared in a list format including: principal railroads, lengths of rivers, heights of principal mountains, principal colleges in the United States and the principal features of various countries of the nations of the earth. On March 4, 1837, issue number 9 of the newspaper was published under the new name of The Colored American, with Samuel E. Cornish as editor. The new motto was “RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTETH A NATION,” and the paper was “…designed to be the organ of Colored Americans—to be looked on as their own, and devoted to their interests…
- Frederick Douglass Paper (1851-1863) – By 1851 Frederick Douglass had become established as one of the most influential black leaders of the 19th century. In this year he changed the title of his Rochester based newspaper, The North Star, to that of the “Frederick Douglass’ Paper.” In an editorial, he wrote: “In respect to the Church and the government, we especially wish to make ourselves fully and clearly understood. With the religion of the one, and the politics of the other, our soul shall have no communion. These we regard as central pillars in the horrid temple of slavery. They are both pro-slavery; and on that score, our controversy with them is based.”
- Freedom’s Journal (March 16, 1827–March 28, 1829) – Although Freedom’s Journal lived a relatively short life, it is important in that it was the first American newspaper written by blacks for blacks. From the beginning the editors felt, “… that a paper devoted to the dissemination of useful knowledge among our brethren, and to their moral and religious improvement, must meet with the cordial approbation of every friend to humanity…”.
- The National Era (Complete, January 7, 1847–March 22, 1860) – With Dr. Gamaliel Bailey, Jr., as editor, this newspaper was issued weekly in the District of Columbia for more than thirteen years. Since John Greenleaf Whittier was an associate editor, much of his poetry, prose and editorials were included. With a continued heavy emphasis on literary reviews and commentaries it was the paper in which Uncle Tom’s Cabin was serialized. The 1847 Prospectus for The National Era stated, “…While due attention will be paid to Current Events, Congressional Proceedings, General Politics and Literature, the great aim of the paper will be a complete discussion of the Question of Slavery, and an exhibition of the Duties of the Citizen in relation to it; …”
- The North Star (Complete, December 3, 1847–April 17, 1851) – In 1847, with Frederick Douglass and M.R. Delaney as editors, The North Star was established: “…It has long been our anxious wish to see, in this slave-holding, slave-trading, and negro-hating land, a printing-press and paper, permanently established, under the complete control and direction of the immediate victims of slavery and oppression…”
- Provincial Freeman (Complete, 1854-1857) – This weekly newspaper was edited and published by negroes in the Province of Canada West (now called Ontario) where many fugitive slaves from the United States had settled. The Provincial Freeman was devoted to Anti-Slavery, Temperance and General Literature, and was affiliated with no particular Political Party. Its prospectus stated, “it will open its columns to the views of men of different political opinions, reserving the right, as an independent Journal, of full expression on all questions or projects affecting the people in a political way; and reserving, also, the right to express emphatic condemnation of all projects, having for their object in a great or remote degree, the subversion of the principles of the British Constitution, or of British rule in the Provinces.”