Wednesday, November 08, 2006

John Brown Russwurm - World-Famous Abolitionist

John Brown Russwurm (1799-1851) was an African American abolitionist from Jamaica. He is known for his newspaper, Freedom's Journal. He moved from the United States to Liberia to govern the Maryland section of an African American colony there. He died in Liberia in 1851.

Early Life

John Russwurm was born in 1799 in Port Antonio, Jamaica. Russwurm's mother was a slave, whose identity is presently unknown. His father was a white merchant. The Russwurm family stayed in Jamaica until he was 8, when the family moved to Quebec.

That year, his father sent him to a formal school located in Quebec. This move meant that the family had to get used to a whole separate way of life. Soon after the move to Quebec, Russwurm's father married Susan Blanchard. After their marriage, the family, along with Blanchard, moved to Portland, Maine. Russwurm is noted as saying that moving constantly was the worst thing that happened in his life.


After the family's relocation Russwurm attended Hebron Academy. Throughout the years Russwurm spent there, he worked long and hard to accomplish his goal of acquiring a good education. Russwurm was always in school and never got into any sort of trouble; his classmates nicknamed him "Honest John". Russwurm attended Hebron Academy for most of his schooling years. About a year before graduation, he moved to a new school, Bowdoin College, and graduated in 1826. He became the second African American to graduate from a United States College or University.


After graduating from college, he moved to New York. There, he began to take a great interest in abolitionism. He worked until his death to abolish slavery.


From reading anti-slavery newspapers, he became interested in journalism. Russwurm liked the way people expressed themselves to the community, but he didn't know how far his journalism interest would take him in life. Soon, he got an idea. He decided to create his own abolitionist newspaper.

The name of the paper was Freedom's Journal. Among all of his writers, he himself had the most articles published. Russwurm always took his time on his articles; to make them as full and lengthy as possible. His paper was the only one in circulation run entirely by African Americans. Of all the abolitionist newspapers, Freedom's Journal was named the most successful. Due to such a high demand, Russwurm and his crew of writers worked late and hard to ship the newspapers all over the United States of America. The newspaper came to an end when John Russwurm gave up on the cause of abolitionism. He came to the conclusion that African Americans would never gain full rights in America. He gradually came to a close on his anti-slavery speeches, and moved to Liberia.

Liberia, Africa

John got a job offer in 1829 for a post in the organization for Pan-Africanism, at the colony of Liberia (a colony set up in Africa for freed slaves). The first place that he arrived at was Monrovia, Liberia. He stayed there for a while to get used to the foreign culture. The next challenge was to learn the language of Africa; to learn to live in Africa.

The first thing that John Russwurm did when he arrived in Monrovia was to tackle the African language. Russwurm applied into an African language school and was accepted. He spent one school year learning every one of the languages available.

Taking on the Post

After his language school, he immediately went to work at his post. Russwurm's new post was located in the Maryland section of the colony. During the beginning of his time, in addition to the Pan-Africanism organization job, he became editor for the Liberia paper, the Liberia Herald. John Brown Russwurm fell in love with Sarah McGill, the daughter of the colony’s lieutenant. They were together starting in 1833. Soon after, Sarah McGill became Sarah Russwurm. The couple had three sons and a daughter. They were together until death. Russwurm was made governor of the Maryland section of Liberia. This section was located in Cape Palmas, Liberia. Russwurm took the position seriously. He tried to make friendly relations with everyone including other nations. Another main goal of Russwurm was to get other African Americans over to the colony.

The Ending

Russwurm pushed and stayed strong during his time on post. In 1851, John Russwurm died while still on post. There is a statue of John Russwurm at his burial site at Harper, Cape Palmas, Liberia.

See you in Jamaica.


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