African American Studies The Anglo-African Newspaper
Marina Bilbija
  • LAST REVIEWED: 07 June 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 June 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190280024-0003


Founded in January 1859 by New York–based journalist and book publisher Thomas Hamilton, the Anglo-African Magazine was a key site of African American literary production and political debate. Its list of regular contributors included some of the most celebrated African American writers of the 19th century: Edward Wilmot Blyden, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Martin Delany, James McCune Smith, Daniel Alexander Payne, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and Sarah Mapps Douglass. Two major features set this publication apart from its African American and abolitionist journal peers. First, it was introduced to the public as a literary and scientific magazine. Second, it invited contributions solely from African American and Afro-diasporic writers. In so doing, it hoped to create a safe space in which the black public could voice its opinions and concerns without fear of white censure. Six months after the founding of the Anglo-African Magazine, Hamilton introduced its newspaper offshoot, entitled the Weekly Anglo-African. He published the magazine until March 1860, after which its publication was indefinitely suspended, but the weekly ran until March 1861, when Hamilton was forced to sell it to George Lawrence Jr. and James Redpath who renamed it The Palm and Pine two months later. Thomas’s brother, Robert, revived the old Weekly Anglo-African by August 1861. It remained in print until December 1865. The similarities between the names, contributors, subscribers, and editorial staff of these two journals have led some scholars to conflate the Anglo-African Magazine with the Weekly Anglo-African. Others acknowledge that these are two distinct publications but refer to them in tandem. One way to capture the continuities between the two without glossing over their generic and other divergences is to approach the two publications as part of a print continuum. Indeed, this is what many scholars do when they jointly refer to them as the “Anglo-African.” Today the Anglo-African Magazine and the Weekly Anglo-African are best known as the journals in which Martin Delany’s Blake was first published. The resurgence of interest in the Anglo-African Magazine and the Weekly Anglo-African in the past twenty to thirty years is due largely to Blake’s introduction into the African American canon and the “archival turn” in African American literary studies.

General Overviews

Although as of the early 21st century, there is still no monograph-length study of the Weekly Anglo-African and the Anglo-African Magazine, these two journals are prominently featured in almost all surveys of the African American press. Penn 1988 is a foundational study of the journal and its founders. However, Penn’s conflation of the magazine with the weekly newspaper obscures the important differences between these interlinked forums. Bullock 1981 is an excellent source on the publication history, contexts, and intellectual networks of the Anglo-African Magazine and the Weekly Anglo-African. Whereas Bullock 1981 provides the most detailed historical account of the magazine and newspaper, Hutton 1993 offers the most comprehensive thematic analysis of the Anglo-African Magazine and the Weekly Anglo-African. It departs from the typical survey model by structuring its chapters around different aspects of the black press (such as the uses of satire, codes of professionalism, and the role of women in the press) rather than around discrete archives. Burks 1975 and Johnson 1928 focus on the Anglo-African Magazine’s status as a new kind of journal in the antebellum US literary marketplace. Johnson 1928 examines the generic traits of the Anglo-African Magazine and argues that this print forum served different purposes than those of newspapers, whereas Burks 1975 discusses its role in curating a discrete African American literary tradition.

  • Bullock, Penelope L. The Afro-American Periodical Press, 1838–1909. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981.

    Provides a biography of the Hamilton brothers, including information on Thomas Hamilton’s earlier publishing ventures, and offers the most detailed account of the history of the Anglo-African Magazine and the Weekly Anglo-African. Lists the journals’ most important contributors and discusses the role of the journals in promoting African American writers.

  • Burks, Mary Fair. “The First Black Literary Magazine in American Letters.” CLA Journal 21 (1975): 318–320.

    A short but informative article that identifies the Anglo-African Magazine as the first African American literary journal and examines its role as the first all-black literary forum. Surveys the impressive roster of the magazine’s contributors, with special emphasis on the diversity of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s output.

  • Daniel, Walter C. Black Journals of the United States. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1982.

    This reference book parses the differences between the editorial policies and focus of black newspapers and magazines. Like Bullock, Daniel argues that publications such as the Anglo-African Magazine were closer to “little magazines” than to protest newspapers. Offers information on the magazine’s history, format, circulation numbers, and contributors.

  • Dann, Martin E. The Black Press, 1827–1890: The Quest for National Identity. New York: Putnam, 1971.

    Part survey, part compilation of primary sources from the 19th-century black press. Includes reprints of from the Weekly Anglo-African organized by theme (emigration, self-defense, and slavery). The articles discussing John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry are noteworthy and a useful teaching resource.

  • Hutton, Frankie. The Early Black Press in America, 1827 to 1860. Westport, CT, and London: Greenwood, 1993.

    Examines the shared editorial policies and features of antebellum black journals. Chapter 1 analyzes the political uses of humor and satire in the Anglo-African Magazine. Chapter 3 includes a discussion of the role of black women in the journal, with special emphasis on Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s and Sarah Douglass’s contributions.

  • Johnson, Charles S. “The Rise of the Negro Magazine.” Journal of Negro History 13.1 (1928): 7–21.

    DOI: 10.2307/2713910

    Traces the genealogy of African American magazines back to the Anglo-African Magazine, distinguishing between the sociopolitical conditions that produce magazines such as this and those that generate more news-focused newspapers. Discusses the magazine’s exceptional status as an all-black literary and political forum. Better resource about the magazine than the weekly.

  • Penn, I. Garland. The Afro-American Press and Its Editors. Salem, NH: Ayer, 1988.

    Originally published in 1891. Includes a chapter on the history of the Weekly Anglo-African. Offers more details about the journal’s association with the Haitian Emigration Movement under James Redpath’s ownership than other surveys. Conflates the Weekly Anglo-African and the Anglo-African Magazine, but mostly provides information about the former.

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