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Tue, 10.01.1799

John Russwurm, Pan-Africanist born

John Russwurm

John Russwurm was born on this date in 1799. He was a Black abolitionist and Liberian government official.

Born in Jamaica, John Brown Russwurm was the son of an unknown slave mother and a white merchant. At the age of eight, John Brown (as he was known) was sent to Quebec for formal schooling.  In 1812, his father married Susan Blanchard, who insisted John acknowledge his parentage name.  His father then brought young John to Portland, ME. He attended Hebron Academy and Bowdoin College, where he was one of the first Black university graduates in America in 1826.

One year later, Russwurm arrived in New York, where he founded the first Black newspaper in America, Freedom’s Journal. The newspaper's basic aims were to promote and widely publicize demands to end slavery in the Antebellum South and gain equal rights for Blacks in the North.  In 1829, in despair over the lack of hope for Blacks in America, he shocked the Black community by resigning from the paper to take a post in Liberia. This position marked a forerunner to the Pan-African movement.

After arriving in Monrovia, Russwurm quickly gained a professional foothold, learning several African languages. From 1830 to 1835, he edited the Liberia Herald, resigning in protest over American colonization policies. As the first Black governor of the Maryland section of Liberia, he established positive relations with neighboring nations, encouraged the immigration of African Americans, and worked diplomatically with whites. His administration supported and enhanced agriculture and trade.

John Russwurm died there in 1851; a monument was erected to his memory near his burial site in Harper, Cape Palmas, Liberia.

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