Second, to help the children to become "useful members of society," the Journal desired to emphasize the importance of education and inspire parents to instill habits of industry and self-reliance in their offspring.

     Next, in order to intensify character development, to direct attention to the improvement of personal traits, and to raise the general level of free men's conduct, the Journal intended to offer reminders for some and instruction for others in the principles of individual and household "economy," lessons in self-help, and examples of thrift and resourcefulness.

     Then, to steer its readers toward the maximum realization of their civil rights, the Journal aimed to urge Black citizens to vote, to vote independently rather than docilely and "to vindicate our brethren, when oppressed, and to lay the case before the publick."

     Finally, to lead readers away from time-wasting, trivial publications and "to enlarge their stock of useful knowledge," the Journal considered it its duty to recommend authors and works that would fortify the mind and stimulate the intellect.

     Thus, the new publication proposed to be a teacher, a prod, a unifier, and a defender, and it proposed to pursue a reformist program with the ultimate design for the universal improvement of man. It was all done in a sweeping style of stately prose with select diction and long, sedate, unemotional periods.

     The editors were telling the reader that release from slavery was only the beginning. That first step into civilization confronted one with a variety of difficulties and problems. One inescapable certainty loomed in the center of life for the released slave, something he was not accustomed to facing in bondage. That was personal responsibility, the obligation to make it on his own. That meant poverty (in the beginning at least) and fortitude to face the ills and pains of living, including bias and oppression. It was a program of self-help and reform within the ranks of the free colored population.

     The editors offered their "sympathies" and "prayers" for their "brethren...still in the iron fetters of bondage." They wanted it known that Freedom's Journal, while addressed to free Blacks, was "not...unmindful" of the plight of the enslaved while at the same time it could deliver very little assistance.

 

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February 2000