The North Star (anti-slavery newspaper)

The North Star was a nineteenth-century anti-slavery newspaper published from the Talman Building in Rochester, New York, by abolitionist Frederick Douglass.[1] The paper commenced publication on December 3, 1847, and ceased as The North Star in June 1851, when it merged with Gerrit Smith's Liberty Party Paper (based in Syracuse, New York) to form Frederick Douglass' Paper.[2] At the time of the Civil War, it was Douglass' Monthly.

The North Star
The North Star, June 2, 1848
TypeWeekly newspaper
PublisherW.C. Nell
EditorFrederick Douglass
FoundedDecember 3, 1847 (1847-12-03)
LanguageAmerican English
Ceased publicationJune 1, 1851 (1851-06-01)
CityRochester, New York
CountryUnited States
OCLC number10426469

The North Star's slogan was: "Right is of no Sex—Truth is of no Color—God is the Father of us all, and all we are Brethren."[3][4]


February 22, 1850 issue

In 1846, Frederick Douglass was first inspired to publish The North Star after subscribing to The Liberator, a weekly newspaper published by William Lloyd Garrison. The Liberator was a newspaper established by Garrison and his supporters founded upon moral principles.[2] The North Star title was a reference to the directions given to runaway slaves trying to reach the Northern states and Canada: "Follow the North Star."[5] Figuratively, Canada was also "the north star."

Like The Liberator, The North Star published weekly and was four pages long. It was sold by subscription of $2 per year to more than 4,000 readers in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. The first of its four pages focused on current events concerning abolitionist issues.[6][7]

The Garrisonian Liberator was founded upon the notion that the Constitution was fundamentally pro-slavery and that the Union ought to be dissolved. Douglass disagreed but supported the nonviolent approach to the emancipation of slaves by education and moral suasion.[8] Under the guidance of the abolitionist society, Douglass became well acquainted with the pursuit of the emancipation of slaves through a New England religious perspective.[9] Garrison had earlier convinced the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society to hire Douglass as an agent, touring with Garrison and telling audiences about his experiences as a slave. Douglass worked with another abolitionist, Martin R. Delany, who traveled to lecture, report, and generate subscriptions to The North Star.[5]

Editorial perspective and breadth


Douglass's thoughts toward political inaction changed when he attended the National Convention of Colored Citizens, an antislavery convention in Buffalo, New York, in August 1843. One of the many speakers present at the convention was Henry Highland Garnet. Formerly a slave in Maryland, Garnet was a Presbyterian minister who supported violent action against slaveholders. Garnet's demands of independent action addressed to the American slaves remained one of the leading issues of change for Douglass.

During a nineteen-month stay in Britain and Ireland, several of Douglass' supporters bought his freedom and assisted with the purchase of a printing press. With this assistance, Douglass was determined to begin an African-American newspaper that would engage the anti-slavery movement politically. On his return to the United States in March 1847, Douglass shared his ideas of The North Star with his mentors. Ignoring the advice of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Douglass moved to Rochester, New York, to publish the first edition. When questioned on his decision to create The North Star, Douglass is said to have responded,

I still see before me a life of toil and trials..., but, justice must be done, the truth must be told...I will not be silent.[10]

In covering politics in Europe, literature, slavery in the United States, and culture generally in both The North Star and Frederick Douglass' Paper, Douglass achieved unconstrained independence to write freely on topics from the California Gold Rush to Uncle Tom's Cabin to Charles Dickens's Bleak House.[11][12] In 1848, he published an open letter to Horatio Gates Warner after Warner objected to Rosetta Douglass' enrollment at Seward Seminary in Rochester. The letter, which advocated for desegregation of all schools, was republished in papers across the country.[13][14]

Besides Garnet, other Oneida Institute alumni that collaborated with The North Star were Samuel Ringgold Ward and Jermain Wesley Loguen.[15]: 9 

Douglass was assisted by philanthropist Gerrit Smith. Smith later merged his own anti-slavery paper with The North Star to create Frederick Douglass' Paper.

The only complete collection of Douglass' newspapers was destroyed in a house fire in 1872.[16]

See also



  1. ^ "Retrofitting Rochester: Talman Building". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Archived from the original on December 30, 2016. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  2. ^ a b David B. Chesebrough, Frederick Douglass; Oratory from Slavery, (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998), 16–18.
  3. ^ "The North Star (Reason): American Treasures of the library of Congress". Archived from the original on December 28, 2019. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
  4. ^ "Liberty Party Paper". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on March 3, 2020. Retrieved March 3, 2020., OCLC 13148588
  5. ^ a b ""Abolitionist Movement." History Net: Where History Comes Alive". Archived from the original on December 31, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  6. ^ "The North Star (American Newspaper) --Encyclopædia Britannica". Archived from the original on November 20, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  7. ^ "The North Star". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on March 3, 2020. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  8. ^ William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1991), 84–206.
  9. ^ McFeely, Frederick Douglass (1991), 15–16.
  10. ^ McFeely, Frederick Douglass (1991), 146–147.
  11. ^ Janet Neary and Hollis Robbins, "African American Literature of the Gold Rush," in Edward Watts, Keri Holt, and John Funchion (eds), Mapping Region in Early American Writing, Athens: University of Georgia Press (2015).
  12. ^ "Frederick Douglass' Paper". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on February 1, 2020. Retrieved March 3, 2020., OCLC 10426474
  13. ^ Douglass, Frederick (September 22, 1848). "H. G. Warner, Esq., (Editor of the Rochester Courier)". The North Star. p. 2. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  14. ^ Murphy, Justin (2022). Your Children Are Very Much in Danger: School Segregation in Rochester, New York. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. pp. 29–31. ISBN 9781501761867.
  15. ^ Elbert, Sarah, ed. (2002). "Introduction". The American Prejudice against Color. William G. Allen, Mary King, Louisa May Alcott. Boston: Northeastern University Press. pp. 1–34. ISBN 1555535453.
  16. ^ Schmitt, Victoria Sandwick (Fall 2005). "Rochester's Frederick Douglass: Part Two" (PDF). Rochester History. LXVII (4): 19. Retrieved 14 January 2024.


  • Ira Berlin, "Who Freed the Slaves; Emancipation and Its Meaning", in Blight and Simpson (eds), Union and Emancipation; Essays on Politics and Race in the Civil War Era (Kent State University Press, 1234), p. 121.