The African-American Press Timeline: 1827 to 1895

John B. Russwurm and Samuel B. Cornish founded "Freedom's Journal" in 1827. It was the first African-American owned newspaper in the nation. Public Domain

 The African-American Press has been a powerful vehicle in fighting social and racial injustice since its inception in 1827. 

John B. Russwurm and Samuel Cornish, freedmen in New York City, established Freedom's Journal in 1827 and began with these words "We wish to plead our own cause." Although the paper was shortlived, its existence set the standard for African-American newspapers established before the 13th Amendment was passed: fight for the abolition of enslavement and fight for social reform. 

Following the Civil War, this tone continued. This timeline is focused on newspapers established between 1827 and 1895 by African-American men and women. 

1827: John B. Russwurm and Samuel Cornish establish Freedom’s Journal, the first African-American newspaper.

1828: Abolitionist groups publish The African Journal in Philadelphia and the National Philanthropist in Boston. 

1839: The Palladium of Liberty is established in Columbus, Ohio. It is an African-American newspaper run by freed African-Americans.

1841: The Demosthenian Shield hits the printing press. The newspaper is the first African-American news publication in Philadelphia.

1847: Frederick Douglass and Martin Delaney establish The North Star. Published out of Rochester, NY, Douglass and Delaney serve as the editors of the newspaper which advocates for the abolition of enslavement.

1852: Following the passage of The Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, Mary Ann Shadd Cary established The Provincial Freeman. The news publication encouraged African-Americans to emigrate to Canada.

The Christian Recorder, the African Methodist Episcopal’s newspaper, is established. To date, it is the oldest existing African-American publication in the United States. When Benjamin Tucker Tanner took over the newspaper in 1868, it became the largest African-American publication in the nation.

1855: The Mirror of the Times is published in San Francisco by Melvin Gibbs. It is the first African-American newspaper in California.

1859: Frederick Douglass establishes Douglass’ Monthly. The monthly publication is dedicated to social reform and abolition of enslavement. In 1863, Douglass uses the publication to advocate for African-American men to join the Union Army.  

1861: African-American news publications are a source of entrepreneurship. An estimated 40 African-American owned newspapers are in existence throughout the United States.

1864: The New Orleans Tribune is the first African-American daily newspaper in the United States. The New Orleans Tribune is not only published in English, but also French.

1866: The first semi-weekly newspaper, The New Orleans Louisianan begins publication. The newspaper is published by PBS Pinchback, who will become the first African-American governor in the United States.

1888: The Indianapolis Freeman is the first African-American journal that is illustrated. Published by Elder Cooper, the Indianopolis Freeman.

1889: Ida B. Wells and Reverend Taylor Nightingale begin publishing Free Speech and Headlight. Printed out of the Beale Street Baptist Church in Memphis, Free Speech and Headlight published articles concerning racial injustice, segregation and lynching. The newspaper is also known as Memphis Free Speech. 

1890: The Associated Correspondents of Race Newspapers is established.

Josephine St. Pierre begins The Women’s Era. The Women’s Era was the first newspaper published specifically for African-American women. During its seven year run, the publication highlighted the accomplishments of African-American women, advocated for African-American women’s rights as well as an end to social and racial injustice. The newspaper also serves as an organ for the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). 

1892: Baltimore’s The Afro American is published by Reverend William Alexander but is later taken over by John H. Murphy Sr. The newspaper will become the largest African-American-owned news publication on the east coast.

1897: The weekly newspaper, The Indianapolis Recorder begins publication.