September 28, 2023

Honoring ‘The North Star’

By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, Ed.D.

Frederick Douglass was once an enslaved man who escaped slavery to seek a better a life. He was born in Talbot County, Maryland around 1818. The exact details of his birthdate are unknown. After being separated from his mom at a young age, Douglass lived with his grandmother on a plantation in Maryland. He was fortunate to learn the alphabet and even taught himself to read and write. Using the bible, he was able to teach other slaves how to read. He also published the first and well-known autobiography titled “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, An American Slave.”

He became a big activist, author, and public speaker. In all that he accomplished, he also published an antislavery newspaper called The North Star on December 3, 1847, using the money he received from a speaking tour in Great Britain and Ireland.

It was a very influential newspaper of the pre-Civil War era. The name of the newspaper was derived from “escaping slaves who used the North Star in the night sky to guide them to freedom.” The North Star’s Motto was, “Right is of no sex-Truth is of no color-God is the Father of us all, and we are brethren.” The newspaper was changed to Frederick Douglass’ Paper in 1851.

Douglass knew the importance of having a newspaper that focused on issues that greatly impacted the black community. It was the only way that the black voice would be heard. The four-page newspaper published weekly and had more than 4,000 readers with a $2 per year subscription. The newspaper contained elements that focused on abolitionist issues, book reviews, poetry, education, and equal rights for all, and so much more.

Douglass is someone who will always be remembered for his work, his bravery, his truth, and the impact that he made on the many slaves he helped. He will also be remembered for the impact he made on the black community. Douglas used his voice to expose the issues blacks were facing, and to educate and empower blacks.

In the words of Frederick Douglass, “Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, ‘What shall we do with the Negro?’ I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us.”

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