Tag Archives: African American Newspapers

The Story of William Houston

This article from the London Times in 1852 was reprinted in America in Frederick Douglass Paper on April 15, 1852.  It relates the long and complicated path from freedom – through slavery – and back to freedom for William Houston.  Houston was a British seaman who was sold into slavery by his employer when the ship was in New Orleans.  There are references to the case in footnotes of some later editions of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave.

The Horrible Adventures of a British Subject Sold into American Slavery

At the Thames police office one day last week, William Houston complained to the magistrate that he, a free born British subject, had been sold into slavery by a sea captain, with whom he had engaged as a steward for wages. He exhibited his register ticket as a “seaman,” No. 548,818, and stated that he was born in Gibraltar in the year 1810, his father a native of San Domingo, and his mother a London woman. About thirteen years ago, when settled in Liverpool, as steward, for $25 per month. The captain’s name was Joseph M’Coy.

On the arrival of the ship at New Orleans, the vessel was sold, and the captain took him on shore and sold him to an American, by whom he was taken to a place called Tricupo, in St. Matthew county, where he remained in bondage for five years.


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The Bottle

A Victim and his Child in The Colored American

We occasionally find a capital police report in the St. Louis Bulletin. On a recent occasion a bloated being, named Johnson, by profession an actor, was found drunk in the streets by a good hearted sailor, who in vain attempted to win him from his vile ways and evil companions. Johnson continued to drink, until he fell to the ground like a beast, when the following scene ensued;

“Just as they were about removing the miserable wretch to prison, a little girl about eight years old, barefooted and extremely ragged, came into the room sobbing and crying most bitterly. No sooner did she see her father than she ran to him, knelt down by his side, and motioning the officer away, cried – “Don’t take away papa while he sleeps! By and by he will wake up once more and kiss me.”

The Colored AmericanIt was a sight to wring the heart of more than man to see that pure and innocent creature, with her little head bare and her white shoulder peeping out from her tattered frock, leaning with fond affection over her drunken father, as if her affection strengthened with the unworthiness of its object. At length the sailor came forward, and speaking kindly to the little girl, took her away in his arms, and wrapped her little feet carefully in the skirts of his coat. The brutish father, by this time snoring in complete and disgusting insensibility, was then taken to the guard house for the purpose of sobering him.

This morning, after manifesting some symptoms of that most dreadful of diseases – mania [ ], he seemed to regain his senses in a measure, and confessed having been drunk, “I was not,” said he, “always the miserable wretch to which drunkenness has reduced me. I once was respected by friends, and beloved by my family. But I contracted bad habits, which got so strong and old upon my nervous temperament as to make a beast of me. My business was neglected, and my wife died, I do believe of a broken heart. Since that time I have wandered around the world without end or aim, except to procure whiskey! I have yet a daughter – at least I had yesterday – a beautiful, tender creature, who still loves me, despite my unworthiness.”

At this moment the benevolent sailor entered the room, leading the little girl by the hand. He had dressed her with new and comfortable clothes, and she looked really very pretty and interesting. After learning that a small fine had been imposed upon Johnson, he immediately paid it, and leading the little girl forward, placed her in her father’s arms. The poor man wept and sobbed over her as if he had been an infant: and for our part, we do not believe there was dry eye in the room. The three left the room together, and we sincerely hope that this lesson will work a thorough reformation upon the unhappy and degraded man.”

Now, my youthful readers, was not this an affectionate, good little girl? And do you not, while you read about her love her? And will you not try to be like her, although, we presume and hope, you have not a drunken father as this little girl had?

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.

Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: The Colored American
Date: April 11, 1840
Title: A Victim and his Child
Location: New York, New York

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An Appeal for WM. S. Bailey of Kentucky


I wish to say a word to the Republicans of the free States, which I hope will be copied into other Republican journals. William S. Bailey of Newport, Ky., has edited and published, for seven years, an Anti-Slavery paper in Kentucky.

He and his family have suffered slow martyrdom all this time. He has been maliciously prosecuted, his buildings have been burned, and he has endured personal violence. But he preserves, and is resolved to do so till Kentucky becomes a free State. He needed new type for his paper, and I undertook to raise $500 of the $1,000 required for that purpose in the Massachusetts Legislature and in Boston.

I have sent him $430, and shall probably get the remainder. Other friends in Boston have sent him $200; friends in Salem nearly $200. He now needs and ought to have immediately $1,000 to pay on his house which he has sacrificed for Freedom, but holds still under mortgage. He will lose the opportunity of redemption unless he is aided to this amount. His paper is doing good service in Kentucky.


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A Lesson for Children on Punning

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

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Son reading the Bible to his parents

The Blessing of Books

Many, who have not the advantage of wealth or high standing in society, are apt to repine at their situation; to regret that they are debarred from much refined and intellectual intercourse. But this deprivation, is, in a great measure, ideal; there is an intercourse more intelligent than of any living society whatever, the great commonwealth of letters, which knows no distinction of persons, admits of no adventitious superiority, where everything is rated at its real value, and reduced to its legitimate standard.

Whatever may have been the rank of authors, the wealth or consequence attaching to their living persons, they exact no further homage; they are entertained without expense, dismissed without ceremony; they are at once our preceptors, masters, servants; they come or go at our bidding: they speak or are dumb at our pleasure.


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