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“Intelligent Union of Black With White” Frederick Douglass and the Rochester Press, 1847-48 (On December 3, 1847, the black abolitionist Fredericks Douglass published the frst isswe of the North Stat in Rochester; New York. This article examines his earliest moments asa journals by studying the responses of the citys white dais to his new carer and bis nenspaper in late 1847 and early 1848. The comments of the city's four dais, along with account of printers’ dinner in January 1848 celebrating Benjamin Franklin’ birthday, showed respect for Donglss’ talents as an editor but wariness over bis Garrisonian aboitionism. The stories sugested that a tension exited between the daily journalists” politics and their nascent professionalism and ‘laminated changes inthe erat as it maved fram politcal organs ofthe erly century toward an independent press have tended to focus on him in high relief, examining his speeches, journalism, and anti-slavery campaigns from the so- called “great-man” perspective by assaying Douglass himselE There has been virtually no investigation of his relationship to his con- temporarics in journalism, and what litle has been written has fo- ‘cased on the general, even stereotyped, positions of the metropoli- tan Whig, Democratic, and abolitionist press. This research is an attempt to start filing inthe background and suggests thatthe jour- nalistic landscape of his eatly career was far more complex than ‘most media historians have acknowledged. [Examining the interaction between Douglass and the main- stream editors further illuminates the transition of mainstream ‘newspapers from partisan publications financed by politcal parties Seeks, studied black abolitionist Frederick Douglass FRANK E. FEE, JR. is an assistant pro- fessor in the School of Journalism and ‘Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina. The author is grate fal to Berkley Hudson, Johanna Cleary, and Rachel Davis Mersey for research as sistance and the late Margaret A. Blanchard foradvice and encouragement for this article, an earlier version of which ‘wus presented at the 2002 annual conven- tion of the American Journalisen Histo- rians Association, 4 to commercial enterprises dependent on advertising and circula- tion revenue. This rexearch contends that in distinguishing between his abolitionist polities, which they disdained, and his journalism, which they approved on principle, a group of mainstream editors demonstrated a growing sense of professionalism at the time and place of his great venture. echaps because Douglass spent so much time on antislavery lecture tours, there has been little examination of him as a citizen ina community? Yethe lived in Rochester, New York, nearly rwenty- five years—longer than he did at any other place—and actively participated in the life of the community asa citizen and parent as ‘wellas a journalist. Although he moved fro Rochester in 1872, he continued to visit the area and on his death was busied in the city’s ‘Mount Hope Cemetery in 1895. This research responds to histo- tian David Mindich’s challenge to journalism historians for closer examination of Douglass and the context of his journalism.’ Among several provocative questions, Mindich asked, “How does his jour- nalism compare with the journalism of others of its day?" and “How does Douglass fitinto the spirit of nonpartisanship that had bbeen growing since the 1830s?” A starting point toward answering these questions is to examine how fellow editors received Douglass when he began the North Star late in 1847 in Rochester ‘To answer these research questions, microfilm copies of three Rochester newspapers, the Daily Advertier, Daily American, and Daily Democrat, were examined for each day from September 1, 1847, through January 31, 1848, seeking mentions of Douglass and the North Star The dates were chosen to provide a starting point that Journalion Histry 34:1 (Spring 2005) ‘would encompass the first public mentions of his plan to star a ‘newspaper and the editorial reactions in the frst full month after his Norb Star appeared in late 1847. Tis not known when Douglass began to think of editing his ‘own newspaper, but the story of his intellectual development is ‘one of growing awareness of the power of the written word. He took a subscription to William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator less than ‘sx months after escaping slavery and wrote that “every week the Liberator came and every week I made myself master of its con- tents?” Te was, he said, “in my heart second only to the Bible."* Subsequently, as Garrison's protégé, Douglass saw firsthand the editor-orator at work, while any doubrs he had about his own literary potential were dispelled by the success of his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. The risks of capture by slave-catchers that his fame brought led to a British tour from 1845 co 1847, from which he returned transformed from “a beast of burden to aman of words.”” He was a freed man of words because British abolitionists had purchased his freedom and then set about ‘ising money that he wanted t0 put to: ward a printing press and other print es sentials. It was thus his English backers’ “insistence, in concert with his deep de- sire to express more fally his burgeoning intellectual independence,” according to “If publishing a newspaper in 1847 was an idea percolating in Douglass’ mind for a year or two, his decision to set up shop in Rochester appears to have been relatively sudden. His mentor, Garrison, and other Boston abolitionists edly, “A subscription is now in progress in England for presenting Frederick Douglass witha printing press, ane enabling him to es tablish a newspaper in the State of New York, forthe advocacy of the rights of his colored brethren.” As late as October 5, another Rochester newspaper published an exchange item from the Baséon Allas reporting: “Frederick Douglas, the fugitive slave," who has bbeen over to England, and who has traveled through the Northern States lecturing on Slavery, is about to setle at Cleveland, Obio, ‘where he wll prin paper to be called the ‘North Star Teis said he has received $2000 from England to aid him in establishing the paper” (On his September speaking tour, Douglass’ next stop after Cleveland was Rochester on September 16 and 17," and itis likely hat while in the city he explored a change in plans with friends there. Ina letter written from Boston and dated Oc- tober 28, 1847, he wrote to his Rochester friend Amy Post, “I have finally decided (on publishing the North Star in Roches- terand to make that city my future home. am now buying type and al the ite ete. ofa printing establishment. I shall prob- ably be able to issue my frst number as carly as the middle of November, any delay can only do the enterprise harm: Five days later, the Ram’ Hort, a black newspaper in New York City, published a prospectus he had been circulating in late historan Waldo Martn,Je,thatheped thought they had succeeded October, announcing “Frederick Douglas him to decide to found the North Star.'® . - " . Proposes to publish in Rochester, New Saeennortinte sane in dissuading him Mieke x tly antalney papet™ Ox perownerihip, Doogie aw i the poper agaecn the nextday the prospects was pected ‘an opportunity to show the world that fom his ambition in its entirety in Rochester's Daily Demo- black intellect and crafsmanship could send, the ony Ioel newspaper to do sa ‘march or surpass that of whites The news- tolcreath anewapapet When he moved to Rochester latcrin No- paper he would found would raise regard for the black man, he argued, by dopronng hi fern and droning his apacy fa more ‘led evlzation thn slavery and pede had asigned him. fa my judgment, tole well conducted pres the hand of persons of| the despite eae woall, by alin out and aking them aque we thie ov latent powers, by enkinding thc hope of «fra ard vcoping ther moe force, prov a most ponerfal means of remo ing pice and avakening interest in hem" If publishing a newspaper in 1847 was an idea percolating in Douglass’ mind for a year or to,” his decision to set up shop in Rochester appears to have been relatively sudden. His mentor, Garrison, and other Boston abolitionists thought they had succeeded in dissuading him from his ambition wo create a newspaper when the wrote to the Bartow Daily Whig on June 27, 1847, that inasmuch as there were three newspapers in the United States “under the ‘management of colored persons,” he had “with some relucta given up my intention of publishing a paper for the present” ‘Thatdecision was reported in Garsison's Lideratoron June 25, 1847."* However, historian Raymond Fulkerson found that while lecturing {in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 11 and 12, Douglass told a local ‘editor he still intended to found the NortbStarin Cleveland." Later in the month, a Rochester newspaper reported, somewhat belat- Journalism History 31:1 (Spring 2005) vwember:*the Rochester Dath American ro- ported: “Frederick Douglass, the eloguent and eelebrated man, has made arrangements to commence the publication inthis city of a ‘weekly journal, to be called “The North Sta The printing materi alshave already arrived, and the paper wil be issued ina few days” “Thea, on Friday, December 3, 1847, he published the North Starfor the first time: cochester was an interesting choice for Douglass. In 1847, it was a growing. prospering community in western New York, the nation’ largest flout milling center.” The Exie Canal ran theough the city, providing a route to the lage markets ‘of New York City, and other canals brought agriculrural products, ppardcularly wheat, tothe city’s flour mills from rich frmland south ‘OF the ci Railroad links were being buile that would soon replace the canals’ commercial importance but only add to Rochester. It ‘vas not an illogical choice for Douglas" new venture, but histor ‘ans have paid litle atention ro why he chose Rochester for his home and newspaper and how the city responded. Some simply take his relocation from Lynn, Massachusetts, on face vale Oth- ers have suggested that there was reform spiiabroad in Roches ter that would have made the community an appealing location 10 him” especially since his interests extended beyond the antisl- very movement to temperance and women’ rights” Douglss’ autobiographies” and published leners® show he 35 ‘was familar with the community and with western New York, ing spoken in the region at sumerous anti-slavery funetions for several years” Recalling an 1843 speaking tour across the state, he wrote of being discouraged that “all along the Eric Canal, from Albany to Buffalo, chere was apathy, indifference, aversion, and ‘sometimes mobocratc spirit evinced” In Rochester, however, “we had in every way a better reception.” ‘There had been anti-slavery sentiment in Rochester since the 1850s," and newspapers in the fll of 1847 regularly carried a rnouncements of a small group of anti-slavery women in their ad- vertising columns” and, less frequently, in their news reports.™ His- torian Philip Foner, in fact, said Douglass chose Rochester “largely because the city “There had been anti-slavery Persons.* There were 162 persons inthis section, identified mostly as laborers, barbers, cooks, and white washers, although one, Will iam Cowles, was listed asa medical student of “Dr. Jenkins” living ‘on Brown Street” The ciny’s public schools were segregated, with ‘one reserved for black children, and there were two black eongre- ‘gations, Zion Church, which was organized October 14, 1835, and ‘Third Baptist, which was organized March 13, 1845, and met at No. 1 School House." If an imperfect community, Rochester nev- ertheless offered greater hospitality than Douglass felt he could expect elsewhere: “I know of no place in the Union where I could Ihave located at the ime with less resistance, or received a lager measure of sympathy and cooperation.” The Rochester to which Douglass boasted an active Female Anti-Slavery ‘moved in 1847 had a vigorous newspaper Society” Ant:slavery candidates regu . F ss tradition dating to its fist newspaper, the larly campaigned in the generlclections 8€Ntimentin Rochester since Rcsuur Gert, in 18162 A history of forposiions rgeand smal," thovghsel- the 1830s, and newspapers —_ tet" New York newspapers, prepared dom garnering many votes“ In July 1847, the Rochester Daily American reported on an, effort to free a slave who was traveling in the fall of 1847 regularly forthe Rochester printers’ annual Franklin Festival on January 18, 1847, listed three aily morning newspapers (the Dai Ad- through Rochester with her owner": Cartied announcements reser, Daly Aarian ans Dah Demers, stort To Deva ASuave— Ween that ne weekly (he Repblan, published by fn serpt was made on Satay, by of a small group the Adee), thee religions papers alt lange mber of colored persons at the , erry paper, and an aia paper be Fas o detain a female sae, who bad «OF ANEI-slavery women —— iy Hublhed in Rochester tha year” In been stopping some time with her mas- ter. A general row ensued, and she was released from those who sought to detain het She had no desire to leave, but pre- ferred to return to the South." If anti-slavery sentiment among Rochester residents did not extend to the ant-Constiutional abolitionist doctrines ‘of Garrison and Douglass, the tenor of the area may have been reflected by the approximately 400 fugitive slaves who passed through the community as “pas- sengers” on the Underground Railroad in the two decades immediately preceding the start of the Civil War With a port on Lake Ontario that offered escape to free- dom in Canada, the city became a final stop in the United States for Aecing slavery" A brief report in the Rechester Day Democrat fon the day before the frst North Star came off the press said, "We are informed that a fugitive slave was expressed through this city into her majesty’s domains, by underground railroad. Time not stated."® Almost immediately on his arsvalin Rochester, Douglass ‘wrote in his autobiography, he became “the staionmaster and con- ductor of the Underground Railroad passing through this goodly ciy™€ Indeed, the fist issue of the North Star reported: “There has just left our office, an amiable, kind, and intelligent looking young ‘woman, about eighteen years of age, on her way from slavery. A rehearsal of her sad story thrilled us with emotions which we lack ‘words to express. On her right arm berween her wrist and elbow, the initials of the name of her infernal master, is cut in large capi- tals. Ohi the wretch!” Although antislavery sentimentin Rochester existe at this time, however, it should not be overlooked that segregation and racism ‘existed 23 well. A number of church congregations were known for pro-slavery sentiment; and, in a municipal directory for 1847-48, black residents were listed in a separate section labeled “Colored 36 in their advertising columns and, less frequently, in their news reports. Historian Philip Foner, in fact, said Douglass chose Rochester Yargely because the city boasted an active Female Anti-Slavery Society.” July 1847, a fourth daily, the Esengg Ga ‘elt, was added to the community's me- dia mix 1f politcal parties no longer owned the presses, the erstwhile growing “spirit of nonpartisanship”® was tempered by the fact that their editors remained highly political and partisan. At a time when objectivity was not yeta feature of Amesi- can journalism, these editors vigorously participated in the politial and civic life Of the community For instance, a report in the Democratic Daily Advertiser on the Whigs’ county convention listed in the fist paragraph, “Mt. Alexander] Mann of the American, Mt. Samuel P] Allen of the Democrat, and Ms, Enos of ous ‘litle evening cotemporary si’ acting as secretaries” Two weeks earlier, itwas reported that Dati “Advertiser co-owner and associate editor Harvey L. Winants was a delegate and presented a successel resolution at the Democratic county convention on October9, 1847. Mann served on the Roch- ester school board, resigning in’ April 1848 because of “the pres- sure of private concerns, and impaired health.”™ dhe newspaper editors of this period carried on constant sur- ‘veillance of each other, and readers were continual eaves- droppers in the political and professional give and take that at times was polite, encouraging, and professional, and at other times sharp, politicized, and biting, Sometimes the discourse was friendly, as when the Daily Dumecrat reported approvingly on the sival Daily Advertie’s new typeface ("a new dress”) and production facilites (“one of Taylor's improved presses”) that, the Demorat said, indicated “a degree of prosperity that must be gratifying to its proprietors and friends. We are pleased to note this evidence of success in the untrammeled course it has taken for several months past™” At other times, there was an element of banter in the ex- Jurnaicm History 31:1 (Spring 2005)