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New national era. [volume] : (Washington, D.C.) 1870-1874
Alternative Titles:
  • New national era and citizen May 22, 1873-Feb. 26, 1874
Place of publication:
Washington, D.C.
Geographic coverage:
  • Washington, District of Columbia  |  View more titles from this: City State
Frederick Douglass
Dates of publication:
  • Vol. 1, no. 35 (Sept. 8, 1870)-v. 5, no. 40 (Oct. 22, 1874).
  • English
  • African Americans--Newspapers.
  • African Americans--Washington (D.C.)--Newspapers.
  • African Americans.--fast--(OCoLC)fst00799558
  • Washington (D.C.)--fast--(OCoLC)fst01204505
  • Washington (D.C.)--Newspapers.
  • Absorbed: New citizen (Washington, D.C.).
  • Also available in digital format on the Library of Congress website.
  • Also issued on microfilm from the Library of Congress Photoduplication Service.
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Editors: Frederick Douglass, 1870-1872; Lewis H. Douglass, Richard T. Greener, John A. Cook, 1873; Lewis H. Douglass, 1873-1874.
  • Publishers: Frederick Douglass, 1870-1871; Douglass Bros., 1871-1873; New National Era and Citizen Co., 1873-1874; Douglass Bros., 1874.
  • Suspended Mar. 5-12, 1874.
sn 84026753
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New national era. [volume] September 8, 1870 , Image 1


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New Era and New National Era

The New Era newspaper began weekly publication in 1870. It was a collaborative effort between two prominent anti-slavery and civil rights activists, J. Sella Martin and Frederick Douglass, both born into slavery before escaping to the North and freedom. They became anti-slavery crusaders, known for their oratorical skills and plain-speaking both in the United States and abroad. Frederick Douglass, the more prominent publisher, also published the North Star and Frederick Douglass' Paper in the years before the Civil War.

By 1870, slavery was abolished, and a new struggle was underway: guaranteeing full civil rights for African Americans. The Federal government launched the Reconstruction program in the South. The aim was to rebuild the region after the devastation of the war and to economically and socially integrate the newly-freed enslaved people. This was met with resistance from White citizens in the North as well as the South, and often took the form of intimidation and violence. Many refused to accept African Americans as equals.

Martin first proposed the idea of publishing a newspaper in Washington, DC. His intention was to publish for the growing local African American community and to reach a national audience. Publishing in Washington, DC also afforded the opportunity to influence the Federal government. Martin established himself in the city where he served as the pastor of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church. To start the paper, he gathered a group of investors and pursued Douglass for his experience and prestige. Douglass was wary; he was busy with his own businesses and knew the challenges involved in publishing a newspaper, but he agreed to accept the position of "Corresponding Editor."

The newspaper's name was inspired by Washington's prewar abolitionist paper, the National Era. Martin used his experience as a pastor to write persuasively and peppered his prose with biblical passages. He was not a good manager of the paper, and after a few months in publication, the paper was in debt and lost many investors. After nine months, Martin was forced to resign as editor. Douglass stepped in and purchased both the paper and the printing plant. He changed the name to the New National Era and established himself as editor and publisher.

The paper followed Congress, which for the first time had African American representatives. It chronicled the Federal government's struggles to suppress the Ku Klux Klan that was waging a war of terror against Blacks and their allies in the South. The paper also urged its African American readership to take advantage of educational opportunities for themselves and their children. Douglass also used it to champion women's rights, particularly Black women's rights, including the right to vote. During its tenure, the paper had additional prominent editors Lewis H. Douglass, Richard T. Greener, and John A. Cook.

The New National Era merged with another DC newspaper the New Citizen in 1873. The merger increased the New National Era's subscriber base but this was not enough to sustain the newspaper. A hoped-for partnership with the Freedman's Bank also failed. Debt continued to accumulate, and there was infighting between Douglass and some of the investors. The publication ceased on October 22, 1874.

Provided by: Library of Congress, Washington, DC