Frederick Douglass began publication of The North Star today in 1847.
Inspired by William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, Frederick Douglass collaborated to found The North Star in 1847. The paper, named for the star that guided runaway slaves to freedom from the South, was published weekly and included current news from the abolitionist movement, as well as editorials, articles, poetry, and advertisements. The North Star took 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” and was published until 1851.
After briefly sharing some background knowledge about Frederick Douglass, project or provide students copies with “Our Paper and Its Prospects,” the opening editorial from The North Star’s first edition. Read the text aloud while students follow along, explaining to students that Douglass is following a publishing convention when he uses “we” to refer to himself. Then lead a discussion around the text using questions such as
- What do you notice about the language and style of this piece? Who is its likely audience?
- What does Douglass explain are his purposes in founding the paper?
- How does Douglass characterize the ways in which African American and white citizens can work toward the abolition of slavery?
- How does Douglass use elements of his life story to explain his motivations?
- How is this piece similar to or different from a modern editorial?
After discussing the editorial, have students brainstorm social issues they feel passionately about. Then invite them to consider the needs of a modern audience and write an opening editorial for an imaginary publication devoted to the betterment of their cause.
This biographical entry on Douglass from the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture offers a brief but excellent overview of his life and impact.
The History Channel’s Douglass page offers biographical information and links to related video resources.
The Library of Congress collection of Douglass’s papers includes categories such as diaries, family papers, general correspondence, legal files, and more.
This collection includes letters from abolitionists, articles and accounts written by Frederick Douglass included in three of his famous newspapers.