Frederick Douglass Began Publication of The North Star This Week in 1847 - National Council of Teachers of English
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Frederick Douglass Began Publication of The North Star This Week in 1847

Inspired by William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, Frederick Douglass collaborated to found The North Star in December 1847. The paper, named for the star that guided runaway slaves to freedom from the South, was published weekly and included current news from the abolitionist movement, as well as editorials, articles, poetry, and advertisements. The North Star took as its motto “Right is of no Sex—Truth is of no Color—God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren” and was published until 1851.

After briefly sharing some background knowledge about Frederick Douglass, project or provide students copies with “Our Paper and Its Prospects,” the opening editorial from The North Star’s first edition. Read the text aloud while students follow along, explaining to students that Douglass is following a publishing convention when he uses “we” to refer to himself. Then lead a discussion around the text.

After discussing the editorial, have students brainstorm social issues they feel passionately about. Then invite them to consider the needs of a modern audience and write an opening editorial for their own publication, devoted to the betterment of their cause.

Learn more from the “The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress.”


Photograph of Frederick Douglass in 1890; Credit: Mathew Brady Studio. “Frederick Douglass.” C. 1890.
African-American Perspectives: The Progress of a People, Library of Congress.


Curious about the NCTE and Library of Congress connection? Through a grant announced by NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick, NCTE is engaged in ongoing work with the Library of Congress, and “will connect the ELA community with the Library of Congress to expand the use of primary sources in teaching.” Stay tuned for more throughout the year!

It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.

Lisa Fink is an NCTE Staff Member, a former elementary teacher, and a current university instructor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She can be reached on Twitter @fink_girl.