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"We Wish to Plead Our Own Cause"

     On March 16, 1827, John B. Russwurm and Samuel E. Cornish published the first issue of Freedom's Journal in New York City. This was the first Black newspaper to be published in America.

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 Rev. Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm





 Class Project

     Read the first editorial of Russwurm and Cornish, "To Our Patrons", which describes the need for starting a newspaper by, for and about African Americans. Have students pick out the main issues and discuss their importance to peopling living during the early half of the 19th century.

     Have students read editorials in local African American newspapers to compare contemporary issues with those outlined by Cornish and Russwurm. Develop a set of questions for students to use as a guide. For example:

1. What are editorials and how do they differ from traditional reporting?

2. Do the same issues identified by Cornish and Russwurm in 1827 appear in the contemporary editorials? If so, compare the similarities and differences in the way each issue affects citizens living in the different time periods.

3. What did the editors mean when they stated, "We wish to plead our own cause" in the third paragraph of "To Our Patrons"? Is it still important in today's society? Why or why not?


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February 2000