John Russwurm, c. 1850, Oil on canvas by Unidentified Artist
The son of an American merchant and a Jamaican slave, John B. Russwurm, one of the first blacks to earn a college degree, graduated from Bowdoin College in 1826. The following year, he became co-editor of Freedom's Journal, the first black newspaper published in the United States. "We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us," the editors proclaimed. "Our vices and our degradation are ever arrayed against us, but our virtues are passed by unnoticed."
Initially Russwurm opposed the project to colonize freed slaves in Africa, but in 1829, he announced he had become converted to the idea, and shortly emigrated to Monrovia as an agent of the American Colonization Society. In 1836 Russwurm became the first black governor of the Maryland area of Liberia.