Tag Archives: African American Newspapers

A Slave’s Allegiance to America

In discussing the indictment of colored men involved in the fatal conflict between escaped slaves and slave hunters at Christiana, the Frederick Douglass Paper said:

The basis of allegiance is protection. We owe allegiance to the government that protects us, but to the government that destroys us, we owe no allegiance. The only law which the alleged slave has a right to know anything about, is the law of nature. This is his only law.

The enactments of this government do not recognize him as a citizen, but as a thing. In the light of the law, a slave can no more commit treason than a horse or an ox can commit treason. A horse kicks out the brains of his master. Do you try the horse for treason? Then why the slave who does the same thing? You answer, because the slave is a man, and he is therefore responsible for his acts. The answer is sound.

The slave is a man, and ought not to be treated like a horse, but like a man, and his manhood is his justification for shooting down any creature who shall attempt to reduce him to the condition of a brute.

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.

Source: Frederick Douglass Paper, September 25, 1851, “Freedom’s Battle at Christiana

Image Details: African-Americans firing on slave-catchers at the home of William Parker, near Christiana, Pa., 11 Sept. 1851; slave-hunters Edward Gorsuch and his son Dickerson, of Baltimore Co., Md., were killed and wounded. Illustration from William Stiles  Underground Railroad, published in 1872.


A Short History of Libraries

This 1827 article on the value and history of libraries appeared in Washington DC’s Freedom’s Journal.  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…“.


Constantine crowned by Constantinople

Constantine crowned by Constantinople

Of the many efforts made by the friends of learning in different parts of the Globe, none have met with more success, nor been attended with more benefits to the community at large, than the establishment, in different cities, towns, and villages, of libraries : whether we consider them as public, social, or private. All nations appear to have been sensible of their value, whether we recall to the reader’s mind, the papyrus of the Egyptians; the parchment of the Romans; the pictures of the Peruvians, or the palm leaves of Sandwich Islanders. Many of the wealthy Romans had private libraries . Libraries were also established by several of the Emperors as Augustus, Tiberius, Vespasian, Trajan, and others. Even the cruel Domitian sent to foreign courts for the purpose of collecting and enlarging his library . In the reign of Constantine, there were no less than thirty public libraries in Rome. The most magnificent of all, was the Ulpian library, founded by Trajan.

We know little about the middle ages; between the destruction and revival of literature in Europe. It is highly probable, however, that very few were preserved by the rude tribes of Goths and Vandals, who, at that period began to overrun Europe, sparing neither age, sex nor condition. For what value could men, rude and uncultivated “as the beasts that perish” and are not, set upon the classic authors of Greece and Rome? – Plunder was all their aim, and little cared they for the most valuable manuscript of former times.

But former efforts, in former times, when books were scarce and dear, were nothing compared to the great principles now in action by the moderns. It is true, we read of the Alexandrian library, containing at the time of its accidental destruction, five hundred thousand volumes; but whether they were sheets of parchment, each composing a separate volume, is left uncertain. Of the advantages to be derived from the perusal of interesting and instructive books, we need not enlarge: we need not assure those aspiring after knowledge, that the path to Minerva’s Temple, though still with many inequalities in the road, is as open as it ever was, to those self-taught men of this and former ages, who have been the pride, not only of their native countries, but of the age in which they lived.

The extent of a library is indefinite: and rules for its formation must depend chiefly on the purpose for which it is designed. Its real and nominal value consists not in the number of the volumes, but in the goodness of the selection. An ancient sage is said to have possessed only four volumes.

But though, we, who live in the present enlightened era, need not expect such difficulties in the way in procuring books, or acquiring knowledge; we contend, that every facility should be placed before our youth, that the many moments now spent in idleness and dissipation may be employed in storing their minds with all kinds of useful knowledge, and preparing themselves for future usefulness. “Knowledge is power,” we are assured; and I need not inform our readers that were we as a community, to be judged by that standard, we should be exactly in our present condition, were not the present circumstances, beyond our control in a measure, really in the way.



Advice for People of Moderate Fortune

Lydia Maria ChildIf you are about to furnish a house, do not spend all your money, be it much or little. Do not let the beauty of this thing, and the cheapness of that, tempt you to buy unnecessary articles. Dr. Franklin’s maxim was a wise one, “Nothing is cheap which you do not want.”

Buy merely what is absolutely necessary, and let experience of your wants and your means dictate what shall be afterwards obtained. If you spend all at first, you will find you have bought many things you do not want, and omitted many you do want. Begin cautiously. As riches increase, increase in hospitality and splendor; but it is always painful and inconvenient to decrease.
After all, these things are viewed in their proper light by the judicious and respectable. Neatness, tastefulness and good sense, may be shown in the management of a small household, and the arrangement of a little furniture, as well as upon a large scale. The consideration gained by living beyond one’s income, is not actually worth the trouble it costs. The glare there is about such false, wicked parade, is deceptive; it does not, in fact, procure valuable friends or extensive influence. More than that, it is wrong, morally wrong, so far as the individual is concerned; and injurious, beyond calculation, to the interests of our country. – To what are the increasing beggary and discouraged exertions of the present day owing? A multitude of causes no doubt tend to increase the evils, but the root of the whole matter is the extravagance of all classes of people!

We never shall be prosperous, till we have sufficient moral courage to make pride and vanity yield to the dictates of honesty and prudence. We never shall be free from embarrassment till we cease to be ashamed of industry and economy! Let woman aid in the needful reformation. Let their husbands and fathers see them happy without finery; and if their friends have, as is often the case, a foolish pride in seeing them decorated, let them silently and gradually check this felling, by showing that they have better means of commanding respect. Let the exercise of ingenuity, economy and neatness prove that good taste and gentility are attainable without great expense.

– Mrs. Lydia Maria Child

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.

Source: The North Star, June 16, 1848
Photo:  Historic American Buildings Survey Arthur C. Haskell, Photographer Oct. 17, 1935 (e) INT.- WEST WALL & FIREPLACE, SITTING ROOM – Timothy Wood House, Halifax, Plymouth County, MA


Drought and Rain – Environmentalism 1866

On this subject the Boston Journal makes the following interesting remarks:

It seems to have been ascertained historically, that in countries like France, Italy, Spain, and Palestine, which have been largely cleared of woods, the annual fall of rain is less now than it was formerly. On the other hand, extensive tree planting in Egypt and Scotland have been followed by more rain yearly than was previously known in those sections.

These are certainly curious results if truly reported. They are attributed in part to the attraction of upright masses of trees for the rain clouds and to other influences not well understood. But however this may be, it is clear to the common sense of every observing man, that a country abounding in woods will retain its average fall of rain longer, and turn it to better account, than a country that is bare. In the latter the wind has a clean sweep over the whole surface, drying up and baking the soil, exhausting the springs and water courses. When the snow melts in the spring , or heavy rains fall, there is nothing to detain the water, but rushes off in sudden, destructive freshets, gullying the land and bearing away its richness.


Group of Negro women at revival meeting, La Forge, Missouri

Ladies Should Read Newspapers (1861)

This appeared in an 1861 issue of The Christian Recorder.  It is important to note that this publication was produced and sold primarily within African American society and this issue came out while it was still illegal in some places for black slaves in the south to be taught to read at all.

It is a great mistake in female education to keep a young lady’ s time and attention devoted to only the fashionable literature of the day. If you would qualify her for conversation you must give her something to talk about, give her education with the actual world and its transpiring events.

Urge her to read newspapers and become familiar with the present character and improvements of our race. History is of some importance, but the past world is dead, and we have little comparatively to do with it. Our thoughts and our concerns should be for the present world, to know what it is and improve its condition.

Let her have an intelligent conversation concerning the mental, political, and religious improvements of our time. Let the gilded annuals and poems on the centre table be kept a part of the time covered with journals. Let the family – men, women a children – read the newspapers.

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.

Source:  The Christian Recorder, May 4, 1861
Image Details:  Group of women at a 1938 revival meeting, La Forge, Missouri (LOC)