John Russwurm, the first Black editor of a newspaper in the United States and one of the first three Black people to graduate from a US college, was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica in 1799. He was the son of an English merchant and an enslaved woman. In 1812, Russwurm and his father moved to Portland, Maine, when it was still part of Massachusetts, and his father married the widow Susan Blanchard, who insisted he give the boy, who was referred to as “John Brown,” his surname, which he did.
Russwurm was the first African American to graduate from Hebron Academy in Maine and in his 20s taught at an African-American school in Boston. He later enrolled in Bowdoin College, graduating in 1826 as the first African American to graduate from the school. With Samuel Cornish, Russwurm founded the “Freedom’s Journal,” the first Black-owned and operated newspaper in the country. He supported the efforts of the American Colonization Society to create a colony for African Americans in Liberia, and moved to the area himself in 1929.
John Russwurm was elected governor of a colony established by the Maryland State Colonization Society in 1836 and served in that role until his death in 1857.