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Initially published under The Weekly Advocate, New York's Colored American was a weekly newspaper of four to six pages. It circulated in free Black communities in the Northeastern United States. The Colored American focused on the moral, social, and political elevation of free colored people and the peaceful emancipation of slaves. The Reverend Lewis Woodson of Pittsburgh wrote a series of ten letters printed in the newspaper. The letters advocated elevation through the establishment of schools, newspapers, and churches by Black Americans. He wrote the letters under a pen name, Augustine.
After the death of David Walker (abolitionist), not knowing the cause of his seemingly sudden death, several Black intellectuals wrote under pen names. In the late 20th century, historian Floyd Miller attributed the title of the 'Father of Black Nationalism' to Woodson, mostly in recognition of the efficacy of the 'Augustine letters.' Woodson argued in favor of an ideology that differed from another Black abolitionist, William Whipper. Whipper ardently favored improving the conditions among black Americans but did not favor establishing (separate) black institutions, that is, Black self-determination. Whipper's letters also appeared in The Colored American.
The newspaper had widespread subscribers; it engaged agents in various cities for marketing and distribution. The paper also received help from the Black church and local abolition societies by way of fund drives and donations. Occasionally the newspaper received cash infusions from prominent white allies. The donations, fund drives, and supplements helped the paper publish 38 articles and survive through 1841. Thanks to the subscribers, the interesting articles, and the extra funding sources, The Colored American became an important paper of its time.