North Star (newspaper)

North Star (newspaper)

"The North Star" was an abolitionist newspaper founded in 1847 by Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York. Douglass, a former slave and a prominent antislavery speaker and writer, gained a circulation of over 4,000 readers in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. Taking as its motto "Right is of no Sex — Truth is of no Color — God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren," the "North Star" served as a forum not only for abolitionist views, but it also supported the feminist movement and the emancipation of other oppressed groups.

Douglass published the "North Star" until June of 1851, when Douglass and Gerrit Smith agreed to merge the "North Star" with the Liberty Party Paper (based out of Syracuse, New York) to form "Frederick Douglass's Paper".

North Star in the making

Frederick Douglass was first introduced to the ideology that would inspire the North Star in 1838 after subscribing to "The Liberator", a weekly newspaper published by William Lloyd Garrison. The "Liberator" was a newspaper established by Garrison and his supporters based on core views of morality.1 The leading perspective of the Garrisonians focused on the Constitution as a pro-slavery document, the non-violent approach of emancipation of slaves by moral suasion, and the dissolution of the Union.2 Under the guidance of the abolitionist society, Frederick became well acquainted with the pursuit of the emancipation of slaves through a New England religious perspective.3

Frederick 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 of 1843. One of the many speakers present at the convention was Henry Highland Garnet. Formerly a slave in Maryland, Garnet was a Presbyterian minister in support of violent action against slaveholders. Garnets demands of independent action addressed to the American slaves would remain one of the leading issues of change for Douglass.During the two year stay in Britain and Ireland, several of Douglass’s 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. Upon his return to the United States in March of 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. Upon questioning on his decision to creating 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."4
With this conflict of interests, Douglass was able to achieve an unconstrained independence to write freely on topics that covered his analysis of the Constitution as an antislavery document, his desires for political action necessary to bring emancipation, and the support of the women’s rights’ movement.5

ignificance of the North Star on Self-Emancipation

The significance of the North Star can be viewed as a key moment in African American history in the struggle for emancipation. Ira Berlin, an American historian, known for his research on slave history, relates the Emancipation Proclamation as the combined effort of many to end slavery, in which the slaves played the principal role.

If the Emancipation Proclamation speaks to the central role of constituted authority - in the person of Abraham Lincoln - in making history, it speaks no less loudly to the role of ordinary men and women, seizing the moment to make the world according to their own understanding of justice and human decency.6
The publication of the North Star was a considerable step in giving African Americans a voice in the abolitionist movement by providing an open forum for African American leaders in the community.


1. David B. Chesebrough, "Frederick Douglass; Oratory from Slavery", (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998), 16-18.

2. William S. McFeely, "Frederick Douglass", (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1991), 84-206.

3. Ibid, 15-16

4. Ibid, 146-147

5. Ibid, 76-77

6. Ira Berlin, "Who Freed the Slaves; Emancipation and Its Meaning," in Blight and Simpson ed"."Union and Emancipation; Essays on Politics and Race in the Civil War Era" (Kent, Kent State University Press, 1997),121.

Writing from the "North Star"

* [ "Our Paper and Its Prospects"] , "The North Star", December 3, 1847.

North Star Fund

The North Star Fund, a New York City community foundation that took its name from Frederick Douglass' newspaper. The North Star fund is dedicated to social change in New York City communities. It donates its benefits to the lower class sector of many of these communities.

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