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The Unionist Unified:
First Abolitionist Newspaper

The Unionist Unified is now a full DIGITAL HUMANITIES website, developed by Jennifer Rycenga, Nick Szydlowski and Sharesly Rodriquez. Please visit the full site, which has many features and capabilities that this test site does not!

The Unionist was a short-run newspaper, established by Samuel J. May and Arthur Tappan in 1833, and edited by Charles C. Burleigh and William H. Burleigh from 1833 to 1834. Based in Brooklyn, Connecticut (Windham County) it was intended to be a local voice in support of Abolitionism, Prudence Crandall, and the Canterbury Female Academy for Black Women. It started publication in the summer of 1833, in time for the first trial of Crandall under Connecticut's infamous Black Law. The Unionist was the first Abolitionist newspaper in Connecticut.

Unfortunately, at this time no full run of this newspaper has been uncovered. However, there are five complete issues, and numerous reprints of Unionist material from other newspapers of the day. Together with Nick Szyldowski, there is now a full Digital Humanities project called The Unionist Unified, and the reader is recommended to go to that site! All original material here is © Jennifer Rycenga, 2022-2023.

1856 Map of Windham County, Connecticut, showing town boundaries. Gerrish, E. P., Eaton, W. C., Osborn, H. C. & Woodford, E. M. (1856) Map of Windham County, Connecticut. [S.l] [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

Basic Facts about The Unionist

The Unionist was a combative, revolutionary paper during the early years of the Immediate Abolitionist movement. While it served an important local purpose in northeastern Connecticut, in full-throated support of the anti-racist and proto-feminist Canterbury Female Academy, it also reported on aligned reform movements in politics, abolition, peace, anti-Masonry, and temperance. Its editors, Charles and William Burleigh, were intimately involved with Prudence Crandall's school, and both went on to long-lasting fame in the struggle to end slavery, as documented elsewhere on this website.

The Unionist was a weekly newspaper, published every Thursday. In addition to original material, it carried reprinted material from other newspapers, engaged in lively debate with other local newspaper editors, and ran advertisements and legal notices. The funds for the machinery were provided by Arthur Tappan, in response to a request by Samuel J. May. The latter's account of The Unionist's founding and the calling of its editor can be found here on this website.

There is some confusion about both the starting and the end dates of the brief life of The Unionist. Some sources say it had published by the end of July 1833, but by its own numbering, issue 1:1 would have been dated August 1, 1833. The final issues of The Unionist are shrouded in an even deeper mystery. By July of 1834 Charles Burleigh had grown restless in the editorial chair (see the letter of William Lloyd Garrison to Samuel J. May about this). But there is strong evidence that the paper continued to publish through that month. There is one story from the close of the Canterbury Academy, in September of 1834, but there was also a publication that claimed the Unionist had been taken over by a non-abolitionist editor. In the absence of more evidence, for now we cannot be certain if The Unionist in its Abolitionist form was publishing in August and September of 1834. In any case, after September 1834 its function as a mouthpiece for pro-Abolitionist perspectives in northeastern Connecticut had become moot. I have been unable to find any scrap of evidence of the paper's existence from October 1834 forward.




There are five extant complete issues of The Unionist, in three storied archives, as listed below:

  1. August 8, 1833, 1:2 – New-York Historical Society Library

  2. September 5, 1833, 1:6 – American Antiquarian Society

  3. December 9, 1833, 1:20 – Library of Congress

  4. March 13, 1834, 1:32 – New-York Historical Society Library

  5. April 10, 1834, 1:36 – Library of Congress

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