Tag Archives: Freedoms Journal

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.



Wives in Demand in 1828

Wives seem to be in demand all over the world. The following is from an English paper:

Wants a Wife, – She must bee middel eaged and good tempered widdow, or a Maid, and pursest of propertey, and I wood, far reather have a Wife that is ever so plain than a fine Lady that think herself hansom, the Advertiser is not rich nor young, old nor poor, and in a very few years will have a good incoumb. – Can be hiley reckamended for onesty, sobrieaty, and good tempered and has no in combranc, is very actif, but not a treadesman, have been as Butler and Bailiff for meney years in most respectable famlies, and shood I not be so luckey as to get me a wife, wood de most willing to take a sitteyeashun once moor, wood prefer living in the countrey, understands Brewing most famousley, is well adapted for a inn or publick house.

Please to derect W.W. 68, Berwick street, Oxford roade, or aney Ladey must call and have a interview with the widdow that keeps the hous, and say where and when we can meet each other.

All letters must be pd, no Office keeper to apply. My fameley ar verey well off and welthey, far above middling order.

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: Freedom’s Journal, December 26, 1828

John Brown Russwurm

Freedom’s Journal News Summary for February 8, 1828

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 news summary was published in the February 8, 1828 edition.

SCHOOLS — The bill making an annual State appropriation of 10,000 dollars for the Free Schools, and providing a fund for accumulation, to be devoted to the same object, has been passed by the House of Representatives of the Legislature of Rhode Island with only two dissecting votes.

DROWNED — Mr. Benjamin Ellis and his son Sewall were drowned at Plymouth, Mass. lately, by falling through the ice. The bodies were recovered a few hours after the accident occurred. Mr. Ellis has left a wife and a large number of children.

DEAF AND DUMB — An institution for the instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, has been commenced in N. Carolina; and an application has been made to congress for a grant of land.

AFRICAN SCHOOL — During the last summer an African School was kept in Portsmouth N.H. the expense of which was principally defrayed for the first time by the town. Nearly all the coloured children amounting to about 30, attended the school.

EDUCATION — Four scholarships of 1000 dollars each, are founded at Danville College. A farm is attached, to reduce by labour the expense of living. The indigent will be supported and educated without charge. Those who are able, will never pay above 20 dollars per annum.


Am I not a man and a brother?

The Case of Somersett from Freedom’s Journal

Somerset (Somersett), a black slave, had been brought to England, in November, 1769, by his master, Mr. Charles Stewart, and in process of time left him. Stewart found an opportunity of seizing him unawares; and he was conveyed on board the Ann and Mary, Captain Knowles, in order to be carried to Jamaica, and there to be sold for a slave.

Mr. Serjeant Davy brought the case into court before Lord Mansfield on the 24th of January, but professed the cause to be of so high importance, that he requested it might be deferred till another term in order to give him time to prepare fully for its support.

This request Lord Mansfield declined granting, but fixed the hearing for that day fortnight, apprising Serjeant Davy at the same time, that “if it should come fairly to the general question, whatever the opinion of the court might be, even if they were all agreed on one side or the other, the subject was of so general and extensive concern, that, from the nature of the question, he should certainly take the opinion of all the judges upon it.



New Slave Laws in Freedom’s Journal in 1827

Freedom’s Journal was the first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States. Founded by Peter Williams, Jr. and other free black men, it was published weekly in New York City from 16 March 1827 to 28 March 1829. The journal was edited by John Russwurm and co-editor Samuel Cornish.

Freedom’s Journal provided international, national, and regional information on current events. Its editorials opposed slavery and other injustices, and also discussed current issues, such as the proposal by the American Colonization Society to resettle free blacks in Liberia, a colony established for that purpose in West Africa.

The Journal published biographies of prominent blacks, and listings of the births, deaths, and marriages in the African-American community in New York. It circulated in 11 states, the District of Columbia, Haiti, Europe, and Canada.

Happiness Of Being Flogged

The following is extracted from the Trinidad Gazette:

“We did and do declare the whip to be essential to the West Indian discipline. The COMFORT, WELFARE, and HAPPINESS of our labouring classes cannot subsist without it.”