Summary Information

George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine 04011
John Brown Russwurm collection, 1819-2000, undated
Date [inclusive]
1819-2000, undated
0.25 linear feet

Preferred Citation

John Brown Russwurm Collection, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine

Biographical/Historical Note

John Brown Russwurm (1799-1851), Bowdoin's first African-American graduate (Class of 1826), is thought to be the third African-American graduated from an American college. He was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, the illegitimate son of a white planter and a black slave. His father, John Russwurm, of a wealthy Virginia family, went to Jamaica after completing his education in England. He sent his son, John Brown Russwurm, to Quebec at age eight so that he might receive a good education. Soon after moving to Maine, his father married Susan Blanchard. Russwurm then came to live with his father's family, where he was accepted by his step-mother as one of her own. Russwurm stayed with the family even after his father died, continuing his education at Hebron Academy in Hebron, Maine. His step-mother and her new husband helped him to enroll at Bowdoin in 1824.

After graduation, Russwurm taught at Primus Hall, a school for black children in Boston. In 1827, he became junior editor of The Freedom's Journal, the first newspaper in the United States owned, operated, published and edited by African-Americans. The journal opposed the idea of African-American colonization of Africa until Russwurm became senior editor. He was forced to resign his position (1829) for expressing strong views on colonization that antagonized many. The same year Russwurm emigrated to Liberia where he worked for the American Colonization Society, serving as colonial secretary (1830-34) and as editor of The Liberia Herald. He then joined the Maryland Society, which recognized the importance of black leadership in their colony, and made him governor in 1836, a post he held until his death.

In 1833, Russwurm married Sarah McGill, daughter of Lieutenant-Governor McGill of Monrovia. They had three sons and a daughter.

Scope and Content

This collection of material about Russwurm was assembled by the College. It includes late-19th- and 20th-century biographical sketches and articles, Bowdoin College news releases, clippings, and other material, as well as copies of letters from the John Sumner Russwurm Papers at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The collection also includes photocopies of Russwurm items from other locations in the Bowdoin College Special Collections & Archives: an 1819 Russwurm letter in the Rowland Bailey Howard Collection; several archival items, including his 1826 Commencement Part speech, "The Condition and Prospects of Hayti" and his note accepting membership in the Athenaean Society.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine 04011

3000 College Station
Brunswick, Maine, 04011
(207) 725-3288

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Collection Inventory

Box Folder
1 1

Russwurm letter to John Otis, June 22, 1819 (original in Rowland Bailey Howard Papers) [electrostatic copy and transcription] 

1 2

Russwurm's note accepting membership in the Athenaean Society at Bowdoin College, 1824 (original in 4.37, Box 1) [electrostatic copy] 

1 3

Russwurm Commencement Part, 1826 [electrostatic copy: original in 1.6.21] (includes transcription from The Journal of Negro History, Volume 54, Issue 4) 

1 4

"Freedom's Journal" materials: articles, newsclippings, correspondence, and replicas, 1827-2012 

1 5

James Hall letter concerning Russwurm to A. Cleveland, Esq., November 15, 1853 (original in 1.3.1, James Hall, m1822) 

1 6

Materials concerning Russwurm's Bowdoin education: correspondence, 1910 - 1968, undated 

1 7

Chapel Talk on Russwurm by Henry G. Russel, November 10, 1947 

1 8

Materials concerning the Chicago Urban League's 125th anniversary of the Negro Press: corresondence and programs, December 4 - 29, 1952 

1 9

Materials concerning the John Brown Russwurm Award: clippings, 1953 - 1967 

1 10

Biographical materials: clippings and articles, 1956 - 1997, undated 

1 11

Materials concerning Bowdoin's Russwurm scholarship, May 1960, undated 

1 12

Correspondence concerning the John B. Russwurm School in New York City, May 15 - 18, 1956 

1 13

"Pioneers in Protest: Founders of the Negro Press," Ebony magazine, July 1964 

1 14

"The Negro in New York," by James Egert Allen, 1964 

1 15

"Bowdoin's First Black Graduate: John Brown Russwurm, 1799 - 1851," Downeast magazine, June 1972 

1 16

Materials concerning the John Brown Russwurm Distinguished Lecture Series, January 1977 

1 17

Materials concerning the re-dedication of the John Brown Russwurm Afro-American Center, December 1978 

1 18

"Black Americans of Achievement," edited by Nathan Irving Huggins, 1989 

1 19

"Jehudi Ashmun and Martin Freeman: Race in America, the Case of Liberia" exhibit catalogue, Starr Library, Middlebury College, 1995 

1 20

Materials from the John Sumner Russwurm papers in the Tennessee State Library and Archives [electrostatic copies - DO NOT COPY] 


Poster with Russwurm's image, signature, and quotation from the 1827 Mar 16 "Freedom's Journal," for the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the John Brown Russwurm African-American Center, 2000 spring