The ram’s Horn – On the Left: Willis Hodges, 1849. On the Right: Ram’s Horn Masthead. 1849. Courtesy of the Negro Newspaper Microfilming Project, Library of Congress

The Ram's Horn was a weekly newspaper published and edited by Willis A. Hodges, a free Black born in Virginia. His family moved to New York in the mid-1830s after Nat Turner's rebellion prompted the Virginia legislature to severely limit the liberties of free Blacks, but they kept their family farm in Virginia. Active in school reform in Williamsburgh, the Black community in which he settled, he owned a grocery store and attended the Abyssinian Baptist Church.

John Brown

By the 1840s, Hodges functioned as one of the most outspoken advocates for abolition and equal rights in the State. His abolitionist newspaper caught the eye of Frederick Douglass and John Brown, both of whom contributed articles and funds. Brown published his essay entitled "Sambo's Mistakes" in Hodges' paper, castigating northern Blacks for not doing more to end slavery. Because of such essays as Brown's, the paper reached a peak circulation of 2,500. Hodges also argued in favor of re-settling free Blacks and escaped slaves on farms in up-state New York rather than in cities. After the paper ceased publication, Hodges continued to support abolitionist causes, including Brown. It is not known if Hodges was part of the Harpers Ferry planning, but when Brown was arrested in 1859, Hodges burned their correspondence. The editor may have helped the U.S. army as a scout in Virginia during the Civil War, but the evidence is uncertain. After the war, he was active in Virginia politics during the Reconstruction era and after the Democratic Party regained power in Virginia, he returned to New York in 1876, where he lived until his death in 1890.

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