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Sun, 03.01.1795

Samuel Cornish, Minister born

Samuel Cornish

*The birth of Samuel Cornish is celebrated on this date in 1795.  He was a Black Presbyterian minister, abolitionist, publisher, and journalist.  

Samuel Eli Cornish was born in Sussex County, Delaware, to free parents of mixed race. As a young man, in 1815, he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which had a large community of free Blacks.  After moving to New York City in 1821, Cornish organized the first congregation of Black Presbyterians in the city.  When Cornish was ordained in 1822, his parish was officially established as the New Demeter Street Presbyterian Church, making it the first Black Presbyterian Church in New York City.  He later ministered at the First African Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and Emmanuel Church in New York City.  

Cornish married Jane Livingston in 1824 in New York City, where he lived most of his life. The couple had four children.  He held high-ranking positions within the American Bible Society and the American Missionary Association, founded in 1846. He was one of the four founding Black members; there were 12 founders.  In March 1827, he became one of two editors of Freedom's Journal, the first black newspaper in the United States. The other editor was John Russwurm. It was intended to serve the 300,000 free Blacks in America, especially New York's community, and to offset the racist commentary of white papers in the city. Cornish left the paper in September 1827, returning two years later.

Russwurm advocated African colonization for free American Blacks and lost many readers. He emigrated to Liberia in 1829. Cornish returned to the paper and tried to revive it, changing the name to The Rights of All, but it folded in less than a year. Cornish later was an editor for the Weekly Advocate, later renamed the Colored American, from 1837 to 1839. The paper was owned by Philip Alexander Bell.  

In 1833 Cornish was one of the founding members of the American Anti-Slavery Society, whose membership and leaders were interracial. He was active with them until 1840. That year, he left to join the newly formed American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, largely because of disputes with William Lloyd Garrison over religion in the Abolitionist movement. Cornish used his position as a journalist and editor to inform the public about the issues involving abolitionism. Cornish died on November 6, 1858, in Brooklyn, New York. He was 63 years old.  

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