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Picture of John B. Russwurm
John B. Russwurm

John Russwurm, editor, politician, and one of the nation's first black college graduates, launched this country's first black newspaper, Freedom's Journal, with a headline that read, "We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us."

Russwurm was born a slave in Port Antonio, Jamaica. In 1819 he attended a prep school and later Bowdoin College in Maine. Graduating in 1826, he became one of the first black graduates of an American college.

Upon graduation, he went to New York, where he found a media that was pro slavery and critical of free blacks in the United States. Realizing that blacks could counter these attacks if they had their own newspaper, Russwurm and Presbyterian minister Samuel Cornish edited and published Freedom's Journal. The weekly newspaper, which first appeared March 16, 1827, in New York City, attacked slavery and demanded full and equal citizenship for blacks.

Two years later, readers were surprised by Russwurm's decision to move to Africa, where he felt blacks could have more opportunities and attain full citizenship. He resigned his position as editor, obtained a master's degree from Bowdoin College, and moved to Liberia, an African country founded by former American slaves. There he edited The Liberia Herald and later became that country's superintendent of education.

Russwurm also became governor of the Maryland settlement in Liberia and served until his death. A monument was erected in his honor on an island off the coast of Liberia.

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