JOHN BROWN RUSSWURM Biography - People in the News and Media


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Name: John Brown Russwurm                                                                 
Born: 1799                                                                                 
Died: 1851                                                                                 
John Brown Russwurm (1799-1851) was an African American abolitionist from                 
Jamaica, known for his newspaper, Freedom's Journal. He moved from the United             
States to govern the Maryland section of an African American colony in to                 
Liberia, dying there in 1851.                                                             
Russwurm was born on October 1st, 1799, in Port Antonio, Jamaica to a white               
merchant father and an unknown black slave. The family stayed in Jamaica                   
until 1807 when Russwurm was sent to Quebec for his education. In 1812, father             
and son moved to Portland, Maine, where the elder Russwurm married widower Susan           
Blanchard in 1813. Blanchard (now Russwurm) insisted her husband grant 'John               
Brown', as he was then known, his full birth name. His father did so, and the             
now named 'John Brown Russwurm' lived with his father, stepmother and her                 
children from a previous marriage, accepted as part of the family. The elder               
Russwurm died in 1815 but his son stayed close to his stepmother, even after she           
re-married to become Susan Hawes.                                                         
Russwurm attended Hebron Academy in Maine, focusing on his studies to finish his           
education and earning the nickname "Honest John". Graduating in his early                 
twenties, he taught at an African-American school in Boston. Several years later           
he re-located back to Maine to live with his stepmother and her new husband, and           
they helped Russwurm pay for further education when he enrolled in Bowdoin                 
College in 1824. Upon graduation in 1826, Russwurm became first African                   
American to graduate from Bowdoin College and third African American to graduate           
from an American college.                                                                 
Russwurm moved to New York City in 1827. On March 16 of that year, Russwurm,               
along with his co-editor, Samuel Cornish published the first edition of Freedom's         
Journal, an abolitionist newspaper dedicated to opposition of slavery. Freedom's           
Journal was the first newspaper in the United States to be owned, operated,               
published and edited by African Americans. Upon becoming senior editor in                 
September 1827, Russwurm used his position to change the paper's initially                 
negative stance on the colonialization of Africa by African Americans to a                 
positive advocacy for this position. These strong views forced Russwurm's                 
resignation in March 1829, after which he emigrated to Liberia.                           
Upon emigrating to Liberia, Russwurm started work as the colonial secretary for           
the American Colonization Society between 1830 and 1834. He worked as the editor           
of the Liberia Herald, though he resigned his post in 1835 to protest America's           
colonization policies. Russwurm also served as the superintendent of education             
in Liberia's capital, Monrovia. In 1833 he married Sarah McGill, the daughter             
of the Lieutenant-Governor of Monrovia, with whom he had a daughter and three             
sons. In 1836 he became the first black governor of the Maryland section of               
Liberia, a post he held until his death, encouraging the immigration of African-Americans 
to Maryland and supporting agriculture and trade. In 1850, shortly before his             
death, Russwurm returned to Maine for a visit, bringing two of his sons with him.         
They were enrolled at North Yarmouth Academy between 1850 and 1852 where they             
lived with their step-grandmother, Susan Hawes.                                           
During his time in Liberia, Russwurm learned several of the native languages,             
encouraging trade and diplomatic relations with neighboring countries as well as           
whites. There is a statue of John Russwurm at his burial site at Harper, Cape             
Palmas, Liberia.