A Revived 'North Star' Emerges

By Stewart, Pearl | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, February 7, 2019 | Go to article overview

A Revived 'North Star' Emerges


Stewart, Pearl, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


"Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground."

Abolitionist journalist and orator Frederick Douglass spoke those profound words as part of his iconic "West India Emancipation" speech in 1857. Douglass devoted his life to fighting slavery and racism through his speeches and antislavery newspaper, The North Star.

Beginning next month, an updated North Star, founded by activist journalist Shaun King and edited by noted scholar Dr. Keisha Blain, will emerge online with content created by progressives seeking to agitate for justice in the spirit of Douglass and the movement he inspired.

The content will "function as an important tool for activists," Blain told Diverse in a recent interview after King announced her appointment as editor.

"We're thinking of it as a great resource for anyone committed to social justice," Blain said. "What's important is that we're going to take a very strong stance and not be afraid to take a position--just like the original North Star we will encourage writers to speak boldly against the injustices that they see."

In announcing plans for the launch, King said on Medium.com: "We live in a deeply problematic time; 172 years ago, in another deeply problematic time, with the systemic evil of slavery still in full force in the United States, an abolitionist newspaper was started by Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Delany to fight back and tell the whole truth about the world as they knew it."

Douglass' paper was named to reflect the guidance of the celestial North Star in leading enslaved Black people out of the South to freedom.

King pointed out that the original publishers "knew they needed a newspaper that represented the cause of liberation with urgency, clarity, heart, and soul," and he added, "we need that right now."

King views Blain, a nationally known scholar and historian, as the ideal person to take the helm as editor. An assistant professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, she specializes in African-American history, the modern African diaspora and women's and gender studies. Her research has included Black internationalism and global feminism.

Her latest book, Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom, has received notable praise.

Blain envisions The North Star as "being able to fill an important void," covering a wide range of social justice issues from civil rights, police brutality and mass incarceration to international development. …

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