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Investing in Good Media: Rebuilding The North Star Newspaper

By Dr. Brian Dixon

|Mar 13, 2019

The North Star was one of the most influential anti-slavery newspapers in the era leading up to the Civil War. The motto of the newspaper was, “Right is of no sex—Truth is of no color—God is the Father of us all, and we are brethren.”

The weekly paper was named after the north star because of the fact that many slaves used the actual north star to navigate their way as they fled enslavement in the American south.

In contrast to other abolitionist publications at the time, The North Star was owned and written exclusively by African-Americans. With Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Delany at the helm, The North Star allowed black Americans to speak truth to power and use their voices to fight against the deep injustices that defined their time. Publication began in 1847 and was halted in 1859. The North Star has never seen the presses since.

Until recently, that is.

The North Star is an important development in African-American history. The abolition of slavery and subsequent civil rights wins have never even gotten close to full restitution and equity. Many Americans still don’t understand basic civil rights abuses like Jim Crow, systematic housing discrimination throughout the 20th century, and mass incarceration and police brutality today.

A study from the Institute for Policy Studies and the Corporation for Economic Development shows that it would take black families 228 years to build the household wealth of a modern white family.

In other words, there’s still a place for The North Star in 21st century America. With the permission of the family of Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Dixon and Shaun King are reviving the 170+ year-old newspaper for modern readers.

Why Revive an Antebellum Newspaper?

The legacy of The North Star, as well as Frederick Douglass, should be reason enough for bringing the old newspaper back to life. During their lives, both became tireless advocates for liberation.

But there’s more.

Reviving The North Star is an investment in good journalism. This newspaper built a reputation for sharing the then-untold stories of black suffering and discrimination.

Frederick Douglass refused to simply merge with white publications to tell black stories interspersed with others, as many people recommended. Douglass was determined to make this publication a voice for the actual suffering endured by black families.

What It Takes to Revive a Legendary Newspaper

In Douglass’ day, The North Star was not profitable. He even took out a mortgage on his house just to keep the paper alive. He paid the bills by teaching and lecturing.

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Today, Benjamin Dixon and Shaun King want The North Star to again be a publication of the people. They have refused to accept funding from venture capital or commercial support. They are instead raising funds one individual donor at a time. To launch, they created Building The North Star, striving to reach 100,000 members to revive the paper.

I’m so pleased to say that I am a founding member of this important work.

With this distribution and funding, The North Star will allow African-Americans to tell our own important stories with “color, nuance, and character.”

Want to help? Join us. Sign up to become a member today, and help us spread the word. We’re almost there.

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About the author

Dr. Brian J. Dixon

With accolades spanning my career as a child psychiatrist, entrepreneur, writer, and public speaker, I advocate for a more sensible U.S. healthcare solution that appeals across all party lines. I am a Texan, born and raised. My psychiatry practice, Progressive Psychiatry, is based in Fort Worth.

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