On March 16, 1827 Samuel E. Cornish (1795-1858) and John Brown Russwurm (1799-1851), both well-educated clergymen, began to edit and publish Freedom’s Journal in New York City. 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…”
This poem appeared in the February 29, 1828 issue:
Caution to Youth of both sexes.
My little dears, who learn to read,
Pray early learn to shun
That very silly thing indeed
Which people call a pun.
Read Entick’s rules, and ’twill be found
How simple an offense
It is make the self-same sound
Afford a double sense.
For instance, ale may make you ail,
Your aunt an ant may kill,
You in a vale may buy a veil,
And Bill may pay the bill.
Or if to France your bark you steer,
At Dover it may be,
A peer appears upon the pier,
Who blind, still goes to sea.
Thus one might say, when to a treat,
God friends accept our greeting’
‘Tis meet that man who meet to eat
Should eat their meat when meeting
Brawn on the board’s no bore indeed,
Although from bore prepared;
Nor can the fowl on which we feed,
Foul feeding be declared.
Thus one ripe fruit may be a pear
And yet be pared, again,
And still be one, which seemeth rare
Until we do explain.
It therefore should be all your aim
To speak with simple care;
For who, however fond of game,
Would choose to swallow hair?
A fat man’s gait may make us smile,
Who has no gate to close!
The farmer sitting on his style,
No stylish person knows.
Perfumers men of scents must be;
Some Scilly men are bright;
A brown man oft deep read we see,
A black a wicked wight.
Most wealthy men good manors have,
However vulgar they;
And actors still the harder slave
The oftener they play.
So poets can’t the baize obtain
Unless their tailors choose;
While grooms and coachmen not in vain
Each evening seek the Mews.
The dyer, who by dying lives,
A dire life maintains;
The glazier, it is known, receives
His profits for his paines.
By gardeners thyme is tide, ’tis true,
When spring is in its prime;
But time or tide won’t wait for you
If you are tied to time
Then now you see, my little dears,
the way to make a pun;
A trick which you through coming years,
Should sedulously shun,
The fault admits of no defense;
For wheresoever ’tis found,
You sacrifice the sound for some,
The sense is never sound.
So let your word and actions too,
One single meaning prove,
And, just in all you say or do,
You’ll gain esteem and love.
In mirth and play no harm you’ll know,
When duty’s task is done;
But parents ne’er should let ye go
Unpunished for a pun.
– T. Hood
This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection
. 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.
Original Photo Credit: Jeffrey Reed