This study is an assessment of the role of John Brown Russwurm, America’s third black college graduate and its first black journal’s coeditor, in the American civilizing efforts in Liberia and later in Maryland in Liberia, two African American settlements that were established by Americans in the early nineteenth century.1


Early Nineteenth Century American Black Black Nationalism Cultural Pride Nationalist Sentiment 
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  1. 1.
    Many people still believe that John B. Russwurm was the first black to earn a college degree in America. Studies have illustrated, however, that he was the third black college graduate; Alexander Twilight who earned his B.A. degree from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1823 is considered to be the first black to earn a college degree in America. Following his graduation, Twilight served as a school teacher in Peru, New York, and as a preacher in a Presbyterian Church in Plattsburgh in New York. He later served as the principal of a school in Orleans County in Vermont and then as a Vermont legislator from 1836 to 1837. Edward Jones, another black, had earned his B.A. degree from Amherst College in Massachusetts two weeks before Russwurm earned his degree in 1826. Following his graduation, Jones studied at Andover Theological Seminary and then at African Mission School which was located in Hartford, Connecticut. Jones was ordained as an Episcopal Church priest, and was later offered an honorary M.A. degree by Trinity College in Hartford in 1830. Jones left America for Sierra Leone in 1831, a colony that had been established by the British for their black Diasporas on the coast of West Africa in 1787. Jones served as a schoolmaster and a principal of Fourah Bay College, and then an editor of two newspapers in Freetown, the chief town of Sierra Leone. He later went to Britain where he died in 1864. For details of the foregoing explanations see these works: Clarence G. Contee, “Twilight, Alexander Lucius, 1795–1857,” in Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York, 1982), p. 613; Gregor Hileman, “The Iron Willed Black Schoolmaster and His Granite Academy,” Middlebury College Newsletter, Spring (1974), pp. 6–26;Google Scholar
  2. Stephen Keith, “The Life and Time of Edward Jones,” M.A. Thesis, Amherst College (1973), Chapters 1 and 2; Hugh Hawkins, “Edward Jones: First American Negro College Graduate?” School and Society, November 4 (1961), pp. 375–376; Hugh Hawkins, “Jones, Edward 1808–1864,” in Logan and Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography, p. 364;Google Scholar
  3. and Thomas J. Thompson, ed., The Jubilee and Centenary Volume of Fourah Bay College (Freetown, Sierra Leone, 1930), pp. 16–25, 97.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    There have been many publications that covered Russwurm. Nevertheless, none of these studies comprehensively treats his endeavors in West Africa in relation to his New England intellectual background and the colonization initiatives of the ACS and MSCS. For the above statements see the following works: Philip S. Foner ed., “John Brown Russwurm, A Document,” Journal of Negro History, October (1969), pp. 393–3997; Bella Gross, “Freedom’s Journal and the Rights of All,” The Journal of Negro History, vol. 15, July (1932), pp. 241–286;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Penelope Campbell, Maryland in Africa: The Maryland State Colonization Society 1831–1857 (Chicago, 1971), pp. 50–52, 90–91, 124, 127–128, 161, 238, 147, 157, 163–164, and 171–172;Google Scholar
  6. P. J. Staudenraus, The African Colonization Movement, 1816–1865 (New York, 1961), pp. 167–168, 191;Google Scholar
  7. Richard West, Back to Africa: A History of Sierra Leone and Liberia (New York, 1970), pp. 152–153;Google Scholar
  8. Samuel W. Laughon, “Administrative Problem in Maryland in Liberia 1836–1851,” Journal of Negro History, vol. 26, July (1941), pp. 329, 348–364;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Charles A. Earp, “The Role of Education in the Maryland Colonization Movement,” Journal of Negro History, vol. 26, July (1941), pp. 372–375, 378–380, 382, 385–387;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. William M. Brewer, “John B. Russwurm,” Journal of Negro History, vol. 13, October (1928), pp. 413–422;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Heratio Bridge, Personal Recollections of Nathaniel Hawthorne (New York, 1861), pp. 94–95;Google Scholar
  12. Carter G. Woodson, The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (Washington, DC, 1919), pp. 94–95;Google Scholar
  13. William O. Bourne, History of the Public School Society of the City of New York … (New York, 1869), pp. 366–367;Google Scholar
  14. Charles S. Johnson, The Negro College Graduate (Chapel Hill, NC, 1938), p. 7; Bowdoin College Catalogue … 1794–1950 (Brunswick, ME, 1950), p. 58;Google Scholar
  15. Leon F. Litwack, North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790–1860 (Chicago, 1961), p. 139;Google Scholar
  16. Monroe N. Work, A Bibliography of the Negro in Africa and America (New York, 1928), p. 698;Google Scholar
  17. Dorothy P. Porter, “Early American Negro Writings: A Bibliographical Study,” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 39 (1945), pp. 192–268;Google Scholar
  18. James O. Horton and Lois E. Horton, Black Bostonians: Family Life and Community Struggle in the Antebellum North (New York, 1979), pp. 71, 90; Boston Evening Transcript, March 3, 1854;Google Scholar
  19. Tunde Andeleke, UnAfrican Americans: Nineteenth Century Black Nationalists and the Civilizing Mission (Lexington, KY, 1998), p. 70;Google Scholar
  20. Wilson J. Moses, ed., Classical Black Nationalism: From the American Revolution to Marcus Garvey (New York, 1976), pp. 14, 33;Google Scholar
  21. Wilson J. Moses, Alexander Crummell: A Study of Civilization and Discontent (New York, 1989), pp. 13, 24, 121, 139, 278;Google Scholar
  22. Wilson J. Moses, The Golden Age of Black Nationalism 1850–1925 (New York, 1978), pp. 34–35;Google Scholar
  23. Wilson J. Moses, “Civilizing Missionary: A Study of Alexander Crummell,” Journal of Negro History, vol. 60, April (1975), pp. 229–251;Google Scholar
  24. Julie Winch, Philadelphia’s Black Elite: Activism and Accommodation, and the Struggle for Autonomy, 1787–1848 (Philadelphia, 1988), pp. 41–43;Google Scholar
  25. John H. Franklin, “George Washington Williams and Africa,” in Lorraine A. Williams, ed., Africa and the Afro-American Experience (Washington, DC, 1981), p. 62;Google Scholar
  26. Leonard I. Sweet, Black Images of America, 1784–1870 (New York, 1976), pp. 66–67;Google Scholar
  27. and Theodore Draper, The Rediscovery of Black Nationalism (New York, 1970), p. 10.Google Scholar
  28. 3.
    My views on Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism throughout the study are based on the assumption that the best way to define any ideology is to delineate it in the context of its concrete manifestation. For excellent examples of this, see the following studies: Moses, ed., Classical Black Nationalism: From the American Revolution to Marcus Garvey (New York, 1989);Google Scholar
  29. William Van Deburg, ed., Modern Black Nationalism: From Marcus Garvey to Louis Farrakhan (New York, 1997);Google Scholar
  30. Mary F. Berry and John W. Blassingame, Long Memory: The Black Experience in America (New York, 1982).Google Scholar

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© Amos J. Beyan 2005

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  • Amos J. Beyan

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