Tag Archives: Freedoms Journal
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.”

George III in Coronation Garb

Pulpit Flattery and King George III

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…“.

Pulpit Flattery

One of the first acts performed by George III. after his accession to the throne, was to issue an order, prohibiting any of the clergy who should be called to preach before him from paying him any compliment in their discourses.

His Majesty was led to this from the fulsome adulation which Dr. Thomas Wilson, prebendary of Westminster, thought proper to deliver in the chapel royal; and for which, instead of thanks, he received from his royal auditor a pointed reprimand, his Majesty observing, “that he came to chapel to hear the praises of God, and not his own.”

The circumstance operated wonderfully on the reverent orator, as from that moment he became a flaming patriot.


Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: Freedom’s Journal
Date: May 30, 1828
Title: Pulpit Flattery
Location: New York, New York

John Brown Russwurm

Changes in Chinese Geographic Views in Freedom’s Journal

Till very lately the Chinese in their maps of the earth, set down the Celestial Empire in the middle of a large square, and dotted round it the other kingdoms of the world, supposed to be 72 in number, assigning to the latter ridiculous or contemptuous names.

One of these, for example, was Siaogin que or the Kingdom of Dwarfs, whose inhabitants they imagined to be so small as to be under the necessity of tying themselves together in bunches, to prevent their being carried away by the kites.

In 1668 the Viceroy of Canton, in a memorial to the Emperor, on the subject of the Portuguese embassy, says, ‘We find very plainly that Europe is only two little islands in the middle of the sea. With such ideas of other nations, it is not wonderful that they should consider the embassies and presents sent to them as marks of submission, and hasten to write down the donors in their maps, as tributaries of the Chinese Empire.

Published March 28, 1829
Freedom’s Journal 

The Da Ming Hun Yi Tu (Great Ming Dynasty Amalagamated Map)

The Da Ming Hun Yi Tu (Great Ming Dynasty Amalagamated Map)

Notes about Freedom’s Journal

Freedom’s Journal was the first African American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States. 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 who contributed only through the 14 September 1827 issue.

Chinese Geography in Freedom's Journal

Chinese Geography in Freedom's Journal

The editors Cornish and Russwurn used Freedom’s Journal to oppose the other racist newspapers in New York City and in order to publicly protest their current treatment. They believed that these mass accounts inaccurately represented blacks in New York City and that their newspaper would be a response to the mass newspapers in NYC that distorted African-Americans. People were ignorant of the truth and they thought Freedom’s Journal might change the perception of Black’s in society. Cornish and Russwurm argued in the first issue of the freedom journal that, “Too long have others spoken for us, too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations…”

However, Cornish and Russwurm’s objective for Freedom’s Journal did not only concern racism against African-Americans but also involved the autonomy and identity of African-Americans in society.

We have Freedom’s Journal as a complete collection covering March 16, 1827 — March 28, 1829.


We’d Like to Report a Sea Serpent…

To the Editor of the Connaught Journal:
From the Quebec Trader, off South Islands of Arran, Galway Bay, Feb. 8, 1827.

SIR – Having this favorable opportunity of transmitting to you the following wonderful occurrence, which may be the means of setting to rest all doubts as to the existence of a marine monster, supposed to be the Sea Serpent, I readily do so, particularly as I have so many respectable witnesses to support me in the truth of what we saw.

Being bound from Rhode Island for Liverpool, on yesterday morning, the south Islands of Arran, came in sight, 30 milers east. We at the same time discovered, about two miles ahead, a vessel, seemingly a wreck, not having a spar or rope standing. On nearing, I ordered the gig and six men to board her; and was shortly after hailed by the mate, who was one of the party, for assistance, they pulling from the wreck with all possible speed.

I hove the Quebec to the wind, and presently learned that Thomas Wilson, being the first to board, was instantly devoured by a most horrible animal, the like of which they had never seen or heard of.

By this time the wreck was driven to about a cable length of our stern from which I could plainly and distinctly see a monster of the serpent kind, lying partly coiled upon the deck, its head erected about four feet, and its hind part in the hatches, the hat of poor Thomas lying close alongside it. The surprise and consternation which struck all on board deprived us of the though of planning any mode for its capture, was such a thing possible, the thought of our unfortunate companion filling us with horror.

However, I fired a shot from a six pounder, which unluckily could not be brought to bear sufficiently high. It struck the hull, at the same moment the animal raised its head, body and tail, in six or seven folds, to the height of a man each; its eyes were large, of a red colour, and much distorted; its throat and neck larger than any other part, of a bright green hue, as were its body and sides, and the back black and scaly. It had ears or fins suspended near the head, similar to an eel, and on the nostrils a horny excrescence, blunt and about 18 inches long; its chops were broad and flat.

Whilst I was preparing a second salute with ball and slugs, it glided majestically into the sea, gave a splash with its tail, and disappeared. Shortly after, myself, John Adams, mate, Mr. William Nightingale, and Mr. Robert Crocker, passengers, boarded her, and with grief had our foreboding for the fate of Wilson verified, he being no where to be found; the vessel was water logged, and in a sinking state; a substance of a tar like nature, but highly corrosive, as it blistered the hands upon taking it up, was upon the deck, some of which has been preserved; it is supposed to be the excrement of the animal.

Our conjecture is that the monster being attracted by the bodies of the sufferers in the wreck, had taken up its abode there, and devoured them. We consider its length to be about 60 feet, and its girth from 8 to 12 feet.

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,


We, the undersigned, certify the truth of the above.

ROBERT CROKER, Passengers.

P.S. Mr. Crocker having occasion to proceed to Dublin, chooses that route for going to Liverpool, and will be the bearer of this statement. T.C.

Source: Freedom’s Journal
Date: 1827-06-08
Title: Sea Serpent

Extra Context on Sea Serpents

Reports of sea serpents in the North Atlantic precede this  report by centuries and were part of common sailing lore.

Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (better known as History of the Northern Peoples) was a monumental work by Olaus Magnus on the Nordic countries, and printed in Rome 1555. It was a work which long remained for the rest of Europe the authority on Swedish matters. Its popularity increased by the numerous woodcuts of people and their customs, amazing the rest of Europe. It is still today a valuable repertory of much curious information in regard to Scandinavian customs and folk-lore. The woodcutting below could be found in the first edition.

A sea serpent from Olaus Magnus's book History of the Northern Peoples (1555)

A sea serpent from Olaus Magnus’s book History of the Northern Peoples (1555)

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