Thursday, January 12, 2012

Early African American Newspapers, Tell So Much

A collection of America's Earliest Afr. Newspapers
These papers are searchable on Accessible Archives

Last week, I mentioned a website that had caught my attention and I mentioned it on my weekly podcast.  The site was Accessible Archives, on that site they have an impressive collection of early African American Newspapers. Since that broadcast, I heard from the owners of the website who offered me a complimentary introductory subscription to explore the site.Well, having a strong interest in African American history, I accepted their offer and I am quite pleased  that I did as I have had a new door opened for me in terms of research and learning.

Early newspapers tell so many stories and I was excited to find a neat story right away, about a young boy who was an unsung Civil War hero. This young lad helped to make the Union Army move on Roanoke Island successful. The story appeared in the August 1862 issue of  Douglass Monthly  a publication by abolitionist Frederick Douglass. And what a wonderful story it was about a young man, an escapee from bondage--a freedom seeker. He was embraced by General Ambrose Burnside and this courageous young man became a hero who led Burnside and his army to victory at Roanoke Island. I researched it further, and I told the story of young Thomas Robinson on my Civil War Blog.

So today, in quest of more gems from these newspaper---I began to truly explore the site itself. I noticed that by typing in a keyword, such as "contraband", or "slavery" many articles come up. One can simply choose to read a transcription of the article, and if desired, an original image of the entire issue appears and one can view it as it appeared first in print. There are seven publications in the African American collection
Image of Douglass Monthly on of Frederick Douglass Publications
Source of This Image: Cornell University Library

Being curious about other publications that I had never had the chance to examine before, I found some of the most moving articles appeared as short entries in what I shall simply call "Wanted" columns.  

The writers of these articles are neither seeking jobs, nor offering them. They are seeking their loved ones. In an issue published in 1894, I was stunned to find such moving articles and letters in "The Christian Recorder" a publication of the AME Church. Families were seeking their loved ones thirty years after freedom. The genealogical value of these posts is evident.

A Query From Arkansas
Source: The Christian Recorder, September 6, 1894 p. 7
Image accessed through Accessible Archives

These ads are sobering, indeed. 

We all know how families were separated during slavery and also during the years of the Civil War. Many seeking freedom never returned to their place of enslavement, and became contrabands--refugeed slaves taken to new places. 

These freed people later began new lives for themselves. Decades later, time had not healed what slavery and war had ripped apart. They still longed for their loved ones so much.

A Query From Fayette County Texas
Source: The Christian Recorder, September 6, 1894 p. 7
Image accessed through Accessible Archives

I shall occasionally post these wanted articles--they tell so many stories and thanks to the ability to see them now online, from such historic publications, I hope to bring more of these to the genealogical community. 

Perhaps during this Civil War sesquicentennial season, some families might be re-united. 


davissmitchell said...

Thanks Angela for allowing us into the lives of yet another of our hero's. Kudo's to Accessible Archives as well.

MissDazey said...

Not sure how to word this question.. It has always been my understanding enslaved people were not allowed to read or write. Are this papers written by freed men or someone living in the North?

I like reading old newspapers, especially ads. Fun to read price of thing back in the day.

Ge Ge said...

Thank you so much Angela for shining a light of this priceless resource. I can't wait to see future posts about this.

Angela Y. Walton-Raji said...

Hello Linda,
Various people treated slaves differently. Some were rigid and would never allow their slaves to learn the printed word. Others were less rigid--but that was not common.
Some learned how to read as children--they had the job of being a paymate to their white masters children. When the children learned, then sometimes the slave playmate also learned.

Some of these papers were written by free people of color, who had learned how to read and write. Some papers were created after the war ended.

Yes, the old newspapers are amazing!

Kristin said...

This seems like a wonderful resource! Thank you for sharing it with us.

Renate Yarborough Sanders said...

Angela, I read this earlier from my phone, but just had to come back to thank you for posting this. I look forward to seeing more and more of these,"Wanted" posts! I know for sure that at least one person in our blogging community (Dionne F.) has found an ad just like this from her ancestors, seeking their family. Oh, that something like this might be waiting out there for me! :)

I also wanted to add that another very rich (and somewhat similar) resource that I've found in one African-American newspaper, The Norfolk Journal and Guide, is a column for people looking for their "lost" family members. These were not former slaves, but people who, for one reason or another, had migrated away from their family homes. Maybe I'll try to post some of those in the future, as you're planning to do with these.

Thanks, again, for for sharing this!


Pat Simmons said...

Wow. Hi Angela, I needed your site last year when I was researching ads for my book.
Besides, digging into my family's genealogy, I also weaved genealogy tidbits into my Christian fiction novels. So definitelt will come back.
Pat Simmons

Angela Y. Walton-Raji said...

Hello Renate,

I am glad that you enjoyed the article. I will have to look at the Norfolk Journal and Guide, it sounds really like another good source. I am thinking of putting up Wanted ads once a week. Such valuable data to be found and shared.

Glad you found the post interesting, and thanks for your kind words.


TechFun said...

There are a few more of these that I posted on the Accessible Archives blog last March. The post is at Trying to Reconnect Families After Slavery in the 1880s.

I was researching something else at the time but when I read a few of these in The Christian Recorder I felt compelled to stop and share them.

Angela Y. Walton-Raji said...

Hello Pat,

What is the name of your novel? Sounds like it might be a good read! Yes these stories are so moving aren't they?

I may begin to post more of them soon.


Angela Y. Walton-Raji said...


You know, I recognized one of the surnames of people that you had on your blog. I have a research buddy who researches the Nelsons from that part of AL&TN. I shall pass that wanted ad from your blog on to her!

Thanks for mentioning it!