Have you tried searching our new online collection: Frederick Douglass Newspapers, 1847-1874? We’ve just added some additional issues of The North Star and Frederick Douglass’ Paper, all digitized from original paper format.
The collection of three weekly newspapers edited by the prominent African American abolitionist launched in mid-January, just before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
One noteworthy addition is The North Star, June 9, 1848, published only seven months after the newspaper began. The acquisition of this rare paper issue was funded by the Library’s James Madison Council, a philanthropic group seeking to advance the Library’s efforts to make its collections more accessible and dynamic.
In this issue, Douglass reprints a speech by fellow abolitionist, Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), which covers most of the front page. Phillips, like Douglass, was already well-known as a superb orator and delivered this anti-slavery speech in Philadelphia in May 1848. Phillips references Douglass in the speech: “Frederick Douglass once applied to a lady, asking her to give him something to help the anti-slavery enterprise, and this pious old lady, who left forty or sixty thousand dollars to the church where she worshipped, told him she could not conscientiously give anything to a man guilty of the enormous crime of stealing himself.”
Douglass’ own writing appears on page 2 of the June 9th issue, below the newspaper’s title and date in columns 4 and 5, a common place for editorials. He writes about attending the first day of the New England Anti-Slavery Convention and also lauds Representative Joshua Reed Giddings of Ohio, a staunch abolitionist, whose congressional speech appears on the same page.
Douglass writes more extensively about the Hutchinson Family Singers, an enormously popular American singing group that supported abolition and performed at many anti-slavery events. The Hutchinsons had performed at Douglass’ farewell gathering in Lynn, Massachusetts in August 1845 just before Douglass left for Europe after the publication of his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. They then traveled with him to Europe on the Cambria steamship, on which he was refused a first class cabin and sent to steerage because he was black. In his third autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Douglass describes: “The Hutchinson family from New Hampshire—the sweet singers of anti-slavery and the “good time coming”—were fellow-passengers, and often came to my rude forecastle-deck and sang their sweetest songs…” (p. 290).
In the June 9th North Star issue, Douglass writes a glowing portrait of the Hutchinsons on their farm in New Hampshire in the article, “Eastern Tour,” but criticizes them in the editorial above, “The Hutchinson Family.” Douglass condemns the group’s singing of a complementary song to that “notorious manstealer, Henry Clay,” who was indeed a slaveholder from his childhood to his death.
All the other newly available newspapers are digitized from original paper issues of Frederick Douglass’ Paper, February 29, 1856-June 8, 1860, already in our collections. This newspaper was the result of Douglass’ merger of The North Star (Rochester, N.Y), with another abolitionist newspaper, the Liberty Party Paper (Syracuse, N.Y.). Douglass continued as editor of Frederick Douglass’ Paper with volume and issue numbering following from The North Star and the publication remaining in Rochester.
Focusing on page 2 of a few of these just added issues provides an illuminating glimpse into Douglass’ newspaper writing. Again, his articles and editorials begin in column 4, below the newspaper’s title, date, and for Frederick Douglass’ Paper, its motto, “ALL RIGHTS FOR ALL!”
Here are a few standouts:
Frederick Douglass’ Paper, March 7, 1856
Douglass’ editorial, “Sweet Land of Liberty—Of Thee I Sing,” addresses, with biting irony, the pursuit and capture of runaway slaves. Douglass particularly focuses on the famous case of Margaret Garner, a young woman who escaped slavery on January 28, 1856 with her husband, children, and others. When she and her family were about to be captured, she killed her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter rather than have her return to slavery.
Additional coverage of the case from other newspapers also appears on page 2 of the same issue.
Frederick Douglass’ Paper, June 27, 1856
Douglass supports the Radical Abolition Party ticket for president…at least at this point. White abolitionist and former New York Representative Gerrit Smith is the party’s nominee for president. Smith and Douglass are closely aligned in their abolitionist views and Smith financially supported both The North Star and Frederick Douglass’ Paper over the years.
In the editorial, “Land Reform,” Douglass condemns land reform that is limited to white people.
In “The Shame of America,” Douglass emphasizes the disgrace of celebrating Independence Day while people are enslaved.
One of Douglass’ best known speeches, given on July 5, 1852, has this same Independence Day theme. It is reprinted in Frederick Douglass’ Paper, July 9, 1852, p. 2-3, under the title, “The Celebration at Corinthian Hall,” with its most famous passage beginning: “What to the American slave, is your 4th of July?”
Frederick Douglass’ Paper, September 26, 1856
After three months, Douglass has moved from supporting the Radical Abolition Party presidential candidate Gerrit Smith to supporting John C. Frémont, the first Republican candidate in the upcoming November presidential election. Douglass also blasts Democratic candidate James Buchanan and Know Nothing Party candidate Millard Fillmore.
Many more gems of Douglass’ writing and those of other abolitionists can be found in the newly added issues of Frederick Douglass’ Paper, as well as throughout the online collection.
Check out this earlier blog for more information: Frederick Douglass Newspapers, 1847-1874: Now Online.
Let us know in comments about your discoveries when searching Frederick Douglass Newspapers.
You should know, the North Star, 1848-1851 has been available on New York Heritage for the last couple of years: https://nyheritage.org/collections/north-star. as is Frederick Douglass’ Paper: https://nyheritage.org/collections/frederick-douglass-paper, courtesy of St. John Fisher College in Rochester (Douglass’ adopted hometown). A collaboration between NY Heritage and the Library of Congress would be a nice thing to see!
Thank you for emphasizing the digital collections of Frederick Douglass newspapers available on the New York Heritage site courtesy of St. John Fisher College. The Library of Congress links to this website from our Frederick Douglass Newspapers site at About this Collection: Related Resources under External Websites. We also link to the website in our earlier blog post, Frederick Douglass Newspapers, 1847-1874: Now Online, under the heading Discover More. Fortunately, both of these digital collections complement each other and do not have a large amount of duplication.