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January 1: ‘The Liberator,’ Lincoln, and black history

New Year’s Day is traditionally a time when people make resolutions, sleep late after partying, and watch college bowl games and parades (when it does not fall on a Sunday). Historic events that fell on this day are often overlooked, and in the case historic events involving black Americans, they would would probably gain more attention if they had taken place during that short month we now dedicate to black history. 

This day marks the first publication of The Liberator:

On January 1, 1831 the first issue of The Liberator appeared with the motto: “Our country is the world—our countrymen are mankind.”

William Lloyd Garrison was a journalistic crusader who advocated the immediate emancipation of all slaves and gained a national reputation for being one of the most radical of American abolitionists. The Liberator denounced the Compromise of 1850, condemned the Kansas-Nebraska Act, damned the Dred Scott decision and hailed John Brown’s raid as “God’s method of dealing retribution upon the head of the tyrant.

The slaveholders in the South demanded the end of the incendiary paper and the state of Georgia offered a $5,000 reward for Garrison’s capture. The Liberator was a mighty force from the beginning and became the most influential newspaper in the antebellum antislavery crusade.

“I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as un-compromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; – but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—AND I WILL BE HEARD.”   —William Lloyd Garrison, in the first issue of The Liberator

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