Celebrating Black History Month: NYLS and the First African-American Newspaper

Celebrating Black History Month has always taken on special significance at NYLS, particularly when you consider how closely entwined our community is with African American heritage. Consider, for example, our connection to the historical publication of Freedom’s Journal.

Freedom’s Journal, founded in 1827 to provide a voice against racism and intolerance, was the first newspaper published in the United States by and for African Americans. A number of sources place its home at 236 Church Street, which is today encompassed by NYLS’s 57 Worth Street building. This neighborhood was home to a large number of free northern blacks who, at that time, constituted a small minority in the city.

Freedom’s Journal denounced slavery and lynchings and advocated for black suffrage. It also published articles on how the U.S. legal and political systems helped to perpetuate slavery. But the publication itself was not long-lived. Founding editor John Brown Russwurm published the last issue in 1829, shortly before emigrating to Liberia.

To learn more about Freedom’s Journal, seek out a copy of the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of New York Law School Magazine, which contains a more in-depth article regarding NYLS’s connection to the newspaper.  You can also access a copy of the article here.