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Boston’s connection to ‘Freedom’s Journal’

Pioneering black publication relied on Boston contributors, thought leaders

Jacqueline Bacon | 2/9/2018, 6 a.m.

Boston waiter and caterer Domingo Williams, chairman of the Committee of Arrangements for the dinner, proclaimed, “May the Slave holders of the world be like the whales in the ocean, with the thrasher at their back, and the sword fish at their belly, until they rightly understand the difference between freedom and slavery.”

Passionate call to action

The following December, Freedom’s Journal reprinted a speech given by Walker to the Massachusetts General Colored Association, an organization founded in 1826 by Walker, Hilton and others to fight for equal rights and the abolition of slavery. In this impassioned speech, Walker called on his audience to seek the unity, education, and improvement of their condition that their white oppressors tried to suppress.

“Inactivity” in the face of oppression was unacceptable, Walker asserted, and cooperation was vital: “Two millions and a half of colored people [live] in these United States, more than five hundred thousand of whom are about two-thirds of the way free. Now, I ask, if no more than these last were united (which they must be, or always live as enemies) and resolved to aid and assist each other to the utmost of their power, what mighty deeds would be done by them for the good of our cause?”

Just as African American Bostonians met to pledge their “aid and support” for Freedom’s Journal before the first issue emerged, so too did they reaffirm their commitment a year into its run.

Struggle to survive

The newspaper reported that a meeting was held in Boston in March 1828 “for the purpose of enquiring whether the Freedom’s Journal had been conducted in a manner satisfactory to the subscribers and to the Coloured community at large.” Without providing details, the account mentioned “opposition” to the newspaper, which the meeting’s attendees countered strongly; Freedom’s Journal was also, by this time, suffering financially, and attention was needed to ensure its continued existence.

George B. Holmes spoke first, urging African Americans to see “the necessity of supporting [Freedom’s Journal] with something more substantial than good wishes” and to pay their bills promptly.

Hilton declared that support for the newspaper constituted “patriotism,” and Walker connected Freedom’s Journal to the struggle to obtain education, about which he would elaborate in his “Appeal”: “The very derision, violence and oppression, with which we as a part of the community are treated by a benevolent and Christian people, ought to stimulate us to the greatest exertion for the acquirement both of literature and of property.”

Although Russwurm determined the following year to give up the publication of Freedom’s Journal, Boston agents Walker and Paul — as well as Salem’s Remond — were listed in its pages until the last issue.