In addition to his work as an abolitionist and speaker, Frederick Douglass served as the editor of the North Star, which, as he wrote in the first issue of the paper, was a “printing-press and paper, permanently established, under the complete control and direction of the immediate victims of slavery and oppression.” Some may be surprised to learn that in addition to the North Star, Douglass also edited the newspapers Frederick Douglass’ Paper and the New National Era. The Library of Congress has now made more than 500 issues of these three papers available on the Library’s website using the same technology used in Chronicling America. These newspapers supplement the letters, speeches, and other materials found in the Frederick Douglass Papers from the Library of Congress.
Students can browse individual issues, look at the front pages of the newspapers, or search for a specific word or phrase within the various issues. Also available is a timeline documenting the history of the newspapers and some of the events both in Douglass’s life and in United States history.
- Consider why it was important to Douglass that the North Star was under the complete control of “the immediate victims of slavery and oppression.”
- Encourage students to choose a topic of interest found in these newspapers and compare how it is covered in a paper from the same time period in Chronicling America.
- Choose a person such as William Lloyd Garrison, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, or Sojourner Truth and explore how the person was covered in each newspaper. How did the coverage change over time?
- Consider how Frederick Douglass may have paved the way for other historically black newspapers. Explore the history of subsequent black newspapers.
How will you incorporate Douglass’s papers into your African American History Month teaching? Let us know in the comments.