John Brown Russwurm


1 Oct 1799 - 9 Jun 1851

Father: John Russwurm
Mother: Eliza Brown

Family 1 : Sarah McGill

                       _ Russwurm __________|
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 _John Russwurm ______|
| (.... - 1815)       |
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|                     |_____________________|
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|--John Brown Russwurm 
|  (1799 - 1851)
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|                      _____________________|
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|_Eliza Brown ________|
                      |                         __
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                                            |  |  


[144] 3 Sons and a Daughter with Sarah McGill

John R. Russwurm 1799-1851

Name: John B. Russwurm Birthplace: Port Antonio, Jamaica Status: Born a Slave Occupation/Training: Early college graduate, politician Abolitionist Involvement: Born of a white father, an unknown slave woman, John Russwurm lived as though he were free and stayed in Jamaica with his father. He was sent to Quebec to be educated. His father left Jamaica and settled in Maine. The father's new wife insisted that the young boy be given the family name, and after his father died, he remained a part of the new extended family in New England. He continued his education, graduating from Bowdoin College in 1826. His greatest contributions were through his accomplishments for black writers, and the black press. He was sensitive to the attacks in the local press in cities like New York that were pro-slavery in content. He then as a result assisted in the establishment of Freedomus Journal, the first black newspaper in the United States. Russwurm, shortly after the establishment of the paper, decided to leave America for Liberia where he felt that black people could finally be free. He left for Liberia in 1829. He served as governor of the Maryland in Liberia Settlement for many years, and was a front leader there for the remainder of his life. Family: Father--John Russwurm. Motherus name unknown. Wife Sarah McGill Russwurm Place of Death: Cape Palmas, Liberia Publications: No full biography of Russwurm has ever been written.

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 & Archhives: 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. Cite as: John Brown Russwurm Collection, Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library. Access Restrictions: None.

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