Samuel Cornish was a man of determination, courage, and a strong advocate for the rights of African Americans. Born in 1795 in Sussex County, Delaware, and was a free person because his parents were free from slavery. After 20 years, Samuel moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with his family to live in a community of free blacks.
Samuel gained an education at the Free African School while living in Philadelphia. After graduating he began his training to become a Presbyterian Minister, a goal he achieved in 1822. After Samuel completed his training he moved to New York City and helped to gather the first black Presbyterian congregation, and he helped to found the first black Presbyterian church in New York.
In 1827, together with his friend and fellow activist John B. Russwurm, Samuel Cornish founded "Freedom's Journal." It was the first African American-owned and operated newspaper in the United States. The newspaper's motto was "We wish to plead our own cause," reflecting the determination of African Americans to be heard and recognized as equals.
Through "Freedom's Journal," Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm championed various causes, including the fight against slavery, the promotion of education, and the denouncement of racial discrimination. They provided a platform for African-American writers and intellectuals to express their views, showcasing their talents and potential.
The newspaper tackled issues like voter disenfranchisement, segregation, and racial stereotypes. It was a powerful force in shaping public opinion and fostering a sense of community and unity among African Americans during a time when their voices were often suppressed.
Samuel resigned from the newspaper within a year and began working as an agent for the New York Free African Schools. But it was not long before he returned to the Freedom’s Journal because, under Russwurm’s sole leadership, the success of the newspaper was declining significantly. Samuel regained the newspaper and eventually renamed it The Rights of All.
As the years passed, "Freedom's Journal" or The Rights of All, inspired the creation of other African American-owned newspapers, each playing a vital role in the fight for civil rights and equality. Samuel Cornish's legacy endured, and his vision for a more just society lived on through the pages of the newspapers he helped create.
Samuel Cornish died on November 6, 1858, but lived a life of resilience, advocacy, and empowerment. Through "Freedom's Journal," he and John B. Russwurm paved the way for African Americans to have a voice to tell their own stories without lies and deception. Mr. Samuel Cornish, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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