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The Freedom’s Journal: The First African-American Newspaper

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The Freedom’s Journal was founded by Rev. Peter Williams Jr., William Hamilton, and other free black men in New York City. This newspaper was the first one owned and operated by African-Americans which was published in the United States.

The first publication was made on 16 March 1827, and it continued weekly. It ceased publication on 28 March 1829. The Journal was published as a four-page, four-column newspaper. It was circulated in 11 states, the Haiti, District of Columbia, Canada, and Europe.

John B. Russwurm and Samuel Cornish served as co-editor between March 16, 1827, and September 14, 1827. Cornish later resigned in September 1827 to form “The Rights of All” journal which superseded “The Freedom’s Journal” between 1829 and 1830. After Cornish resignation, Russwurm became the sole editor of the journal.

All the 103 issues of the Freedom’s Journal have been digitized and uploaded on the Wisconsin history website.

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Prince Hall: The First African-American to Join the Freemasons

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Prince Hall, who is considered the father of African Freemasonry, is believed to be born between 1735 and 1738. His exact place of birth is not known though he mentioned in his writings that is homeland is England.

Hall developed interest in the Masonic fraternity because Freemasonry was founded upon ideals of liberty, peace and equality. At some point, he and some other blacks requested for membership

With the white Freemasonry but they were rejected. On March 6, 1775, he and 15 other blacks sought for membership and were initiated into Masonry by members of Lodge No. 441 of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. They then formed the African Lodge No. 1 and Hall was named the Grand Master. However, their mason had limited power as they could not perform some essential functions of a fully operating Lodge.

Due to this, they later applied for a charter at the Grand Lodge of England. On September 29, 1784, the Duke of Cumberland, issued a charter for the African Lodge No. 1. It then became the first African Masonic lodge. Hall was made the Provincial Grand Master of the Lodge on January 27, 1791.

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In Dahomey: The First Broadway Musical Comedy Written by African Americans and the First to Star African-Americans

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In 1903, African-Americans made history when they produce the musical comedy titled “In Dahomey.” It was the first full-length comic show to be written and played by the African-Americans. It was written by Jesse Shipp, and produced by produced by Harry Seamon and McVon Hurtig.

The comedy was opened on February 18, 1903, at the New York Theatre. It starred two iconic figures at the time which include George Walker and Bert Williams. It was a remarkable accomplishment in the evolution of the African-American musical comedy and one of the most successful comics of its era.

It enjoyed recognition for a total of four years and had 53 completed performances. It had two tours in the United States and one in the United Kingdom.

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Virginia State University: First Fully State-Supported Four-Year Institution of Higher Learning for African-Americans

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Virginia State University, formerly known as Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (1882–1902) and Virginia State College for Negroes ((1902–1946), was established on March 6, 1882. The school was founded to serve the needs of the African-Americans that were at the time excluded from other public institutions in Virginia. It became U.S. first fully state-supported four-year institution of higher learning for black Americans.

The school was founded following a bill passed by the state legislature sponsored by a black attorney, Alfred Harris. It was not opened until October 1, 1883, due to a hostile lawsuit. John Langston was elected in 1885 as the university’s first president. Langston later became the first African-American elected to the Congress from Virginia.

In its first academic year, 1883/1884 session, the school had 126 students, seven faculties, one building, a 200-book library, 33 acres of land, and a $20,000 budget.

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