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Frederick Douglass' Paper, 1851 - 1858

Douglass in 1845
  Frederick Douglass' first paper was The North Star, which he edited along with Martin Delany and published in Rochester from 1847 to 1851. Financial difficulties led him in 1851 to merge the paper with Gerrit Smith's Liberty Party Paper and to call the new four-page weekly Frederick Douglass' Paper. Smith helped with money, Julia Griffiths, a Rochester abolitionist, volunteered editorial assistance, and William J. Watkins was listed on the masthead as Editorial Assistant, but Douglass had complete editorial control. The first issue appeared 6 June 1851, and the last in 1858, when its place was taken by Frederick Douglass' Monthly.

  Douglass' Paper was specifically dedicated to the related causes of abolishing slavery and improving the condition of "free colored people in the North." It also featured stories and editorials on a wide range of liberal reform topics, from temperance to woman's rights. It paid some attention to local events in and around Rochester, but its real focus, like its readership, was national, or at least Northern. Given Douglass' rhetorical situation, he gave a surprising amount of room in his columns to the other side, often reprinting Southern or pro-slavery items with little editorial comment. No reader, however, could have missed the paper's own commitment to attacking instances of injustice or oppression on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
    The paper's basic layout remained fairly constant. Page 1 featured current events involving racial or abolitionist issues. "The Den of Villany" was introduced as a regular feature on 11 March 1853 as a place where Douglass could expose discriminatory practices in American society; it appears in the 18 March issue too, but thereafter appeared irregularly. Pages 2 and 3 were made up of a variety of items: editorials, correspondence from contributors and readers (often other African Americans), poetry, book reviews, short news items. On page 4 were the ads -- and, for most of 1853, excerpts from Dickens' Bleak House that seem mainly intended to help Douglass fill up the paper (though Dickens' popularity with Americans and his reputation for reform-mindedness make him an appropriate part of the paper's conversation).