Tag Archives: African American Newspapers
Plan of the city of Washington.

Happy Birthday to the District of Columbia!

The signing of the Residence Act on July 16, 1790, approved the creation of a capital district located along the Potomac River on the country’s East Coast. The U.S. Constitution provided for a federal district under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress and the District is therefore not a part of any U.S. state.

The states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the federal district, which included the preexisting settlements of Georgetown and Alexandria. Named in honor of George Washington, the City of Washington was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capital.

From its founding via the Residence Act in 1790 until the Civil War, the question of slavery in the district was often debated.

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Candidates for the Presidency

The Whig and Democratic Candidates are thus described: with what accuracy let their friends judge.

General Zachary Taylor

General Zachary Taylor

GEN. ZACHARY TAYLOR. – And so Messrs. Clay, Webster, Clayton and M’Lean, all of whom (at least in the estimation of their friends) possess the requisite mental and civil qualifications for the Presidency, are thrust aside to make room for a miserable old slave-monger, who has no qualification of any sort, except as a professional butcher of the human race – an occupation which they do say he understands pretty thoroughly. As the pioneer of Polk’s hired assassins in Mexico, Gen. T. won an enormous sight of ‘glory’ at the fiendish massacres of Palo Alto, Monterey and Buena Vista, in a detestable war for the extension of slavery – and it is this abominable fact alone, and not the slightest personal merit on his part, that has secured his nomination. This is well understood. The old Turk is said to be the owner of an extensive sugar plantation on the Mississippi, with two or three hundred slaves, constantly driven to unpaid toil – toil so desperately exhausting as to destroy the lives of the slaves on an average, in five years. A delightful candidate for Northern freemen to support!

Lewis Cass

Lewis Cass

LEWIS CASS. – The Utica Liberty Press winds up a long article upon the Baltimore Convention, with the following notice of Lewis Cass.

“We have said nothing specially of the nominee of the Convention. Nor is it necessary. Lewis Cass is one of the most miserable demagogues alive. Gross in person – almost idiotic in visage – narrow in intellect – shrivelled in soul – vulgar in taste – treacherous by instinct – crawling in his ambition – devious in his course – truckling to his superiors – mean among his equals – domineering to his inferiors – without one particle of frank manhood in his composition – he is a Hunker of the Hunkers, pledged to veto any act excluding slavery from our free territories, ready and eager to stoop to the dirtiest work of the slave power, and is the fit tool of flesh mongers, who would blister the free soil of Mexico with the curse of negro bondage. To think of the republic of Washington being ruled by a Cass, while that of Lafayette is ruled by a Lamartine! The possibility of such a degradation palsies our pen. We stop.”

Source:  The North Star – July 14, 1848

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.

Top Image: Rowing him up Salt River - The cartoonist is optimistic about the prospects of Whig presidential candidate Zachary Taylor, here shown rowing Democratic opponent Lewis Cass up the river of political misfortune. Cass, seated in the stern, wears an almost comical frown and Taylor, plying his oars in the bow, a look of determination.

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Swearing Oath

The Boy on the Witness Stand

Judge Grosh, of Pennsylvania, communicates the following:

After the plea “not guilty” was entered, and the jury was sworn or affirmed, a small, very intelligent-looking boy, was called to the witness-stand. The defendant’s attorney objected to his testifying, on account of his age, etc…

The attorney for the Commonwealth said the boy was unusually intelligent, and requested the Court to examine his competency; and I proceeded accordingly, very mildly:

Judge: What is your name, my son?

Boy: —– ——. (Giving his name very distinctly, which I do not now remember.)

Judge: Where do you reside, my little man?

Boy: In this city, sir.

Judge: Have you a parent or parents alive and residing here?

Boy: Only one; my mother.

Judge: Do you attend school, my son?

Boy: Yes, sir.

Judge: I presume, from your intelligent and praiseworthy conduct here, that you will soon be allowed to attend the High School, and become a useful man, and (if necessary) assist your good mother. (This drew tears of pleasure to his eyes, and he replied that, by the favor of the School Directors, he had attended the High School for the last six months.)

Judge: How old are you, my good boy?

Boy: My mother says that on tomorrow I will be thirteen years old.

Judge: Are you here to give evidence to the court and jury in this case?

Boy: Yes, sir; if required so to do.

Judge: Do you know the solemnity of the obligations of a judicial oath, my son? Reflect before you answer.

Boy: (Very modestly.) I think I do.

Judge: What will be your punishment, my dear boy, if you swear falsely, or speak a lie on oath?

Boy: I will be sent to the penitentiary, (weeping) and thus break my dear mother’s heart. (There were other eyes besides his in that house overflowing with tears.)

Defendant’s attorney: (frowning) Boy, don’t you know that if you tell a lie, on your oath, when you die you will be endlessly tortured in a fiery pool?

Boy: That would be an additional inducement to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; but that punishment can be avoided by a timely repentance; but repentance will avail nothing to keep me out of the penitentiary.

Judge: You are a noble boy! Who gave you these excellent instructions?

Boy: My mother, sir.

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An Alphabet of Proverbs from 1862

The Christian Recorder

This alphabetical list of proverbs appeared in the September 20, 1862 issue of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States’s newspaper The Christian Recorder.

Alphabet of Proverbs

  • A grain of prudence is worth a pound of craft.
  • Boasters are cousins to liars.
  • Confession of faults makes half amends.
  • Denying a fault doubles it.
  • Envy shooteth at others, and wounds herself.
  • Foolish fear doubles danger.
  • God reaches us good things by our hands.
  • He has hard work who has nothing to do.
  • It costs more to avenge wrongs than to bear them.
  • Justice overtakes many a rogue.
  • Knavery is the worst trade.
  • Learning makes a man fit company for himself.
  • Modesty is a guard to virtue.
  • Not to hear conscience is the way to silence it.
  • One hour to-day is worth two to-morrow.
  • Proud looks make foul work in fair faces.
  • Quiet conscience gives quiet sleep.
  • Riches is his who wants least.
  • Small faults indulged are little thieves that let in greater.
  • The boughs that bear most hang lowest.
  • Upright walking is sure walking.
  • Virtue and happiness are mother and daughter.
  • Wise men make more opportunities than they find.
  • You never lose by doing a good turn.
  • Zeal without knowledge is fire without light.

And a good newspaper is a well-spring of knowledge.

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.
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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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