Civil Rights, History

Frederick Douglass historic newspapers are now available online

By Frederick H. Lowe



Frederick Douglass

The Library of Congress is publishing for free online digitized copies of the Frederick Douglass Newspapers that date from 1847 to 1874.

The papers are  North Star, Frederick Douglass’s Paper and the New National Era. There are 137 issues of The North Star, 220 issues of Frederick Douglass’ Paper and 211 issues of the New National Era.

The North Star, published from 1847 to1851 in Rochester, New York, is the most famous of Douglass’s newspapers.

Douglass was an abolitionist and The North Star was anti-slavery newspaper. The North Star referred to Polaris, the bright star that helped slaves escape to the North and Canada.

At different times Douglass used his papers as an anti-slavery platform, as well as urging black men to fight for the Union during the Civil War, to fight the rise of the Klu Klux Klan and to champion Reconstruction.

Douglas, who escaped slavery while being held in bondage in Tuckahoe, Talbot, Maryland, strongly believed in the importance of the black press.

He founded The North Star on December 3, 1847 in Rochester, New York. Rochester was a city on the Erie Canal that also was one the last stops for blacks escaping slavery before crossing over to the freedom in Canada.

One fugitive was Josiah Henson. He walked from Kentucky to Canada, with his wife and two children. He kissed the ground when they reached Canada.

North Star newspaper

He was known as Uncle Tom because of his association with Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The book helped spark the Civil War.

In this instance, “Uncle Tom” was a strong black man, not the head down shuffling “yes sir” boy afraid of whites. That Uncle Tom is a creation of whites, and unfortunately blacks use the disparaging name to insult other blacks.

Henson built a settlement of black homeowners in “Dawn” a village he named near Dresden, Ontario, Canada.

Douglass raised money to support The North Star by speaking in England, Ireland and Scotland from August 1845 to April 1847. The North Star’s first publisher was abolitionist William Cooper Nell. British abolitionist Julia Griffiths moved to Rochester to help get the paper on more solid financial footing.

In June 1851, The North Star merged with Liberty Party Paper under the name The Frederick Douglass Paper. It also was published in Rochester.

Frederick Douglass newspaper

While at the Frederick Douglass Paper, Frederick Douglass attended in July 1848 the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. He was one of 32 men and 68 women to sign the declaration stating “all men and women are created equal.”

In September 1870, Douglass moved to Washington, D.C. to become editor-in-chief and part owner of the New National Era. Douglass used the paper as platform to attack the rise of the Klu Klux Klan and to champion Reconstruction.

He later turned the running of the paper to his two sons Lewis and Frederick Jr. The paper operated from 1870 to 1874.



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