Early abolitionist David Ruggles
August 9, 2012 1:54 PM   Subscribe

In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass wrote of his early days in New York City after his escape from slavery:
Thank Heaven, I remained but a short time in this distressed situation. I was relieved from it by the humane hand of Mr. DAVID RUGGLES. [...] Mr. Ruggles was then very deeply engaged in the memorable Darg case, as well as attending to a number of other fugitive slaves, devising ways and means for their successful escape; and, though watched and hemmed in on almost every side, he seemed to be more than a match for his enemies.

Ruggles was born to free blacks in Connecticut in 1810.1 After arriving in New York in 1827, he opened a grocery store which would become America's first black-owned bookshop. When it was torched by a mob, he quickly opened another. He was an early leader in the New York Committee of Vigilance which existed to protect blacks in New York from slavers who would kidnap escaped slaves to return them to the south, and were sometimes indifferent to whether the blacks they were kidnapping really had been slaves. Ships bearing slaves destined for elsewhere sometimes docked at New York. Ruggles more than once succeeded in having the captains arrested, and more than once had to escape plots to kidnap him and force him into slavery in the South in revenge.

He was America's first working black journalist and operated America's first black-owned press. His Mirror of Liberty is counted as the first magazine published by an African-American.

Anticipating Rosa Parks by more than a century, in 1841 he boarded a railway's "white car" and sued after he was removed. (He lost.)

In 1842, he joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, an abolitionist utopian commune in Massachusetts. He founded one of America's first hydrotherapy hospitals and remained in Northampton until his death in 1849. The David Ruggles Center is there today.

Only recently has a biography been published (excerpt); its author, Graham Hodges explains that previous history has neglected black abolitionists.

1. While the importation of slaves into Connecticut had been illegal since 1774, existing slaves weren't emancipated and slavery persisted until their deaths.
posted by Zed (9 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you so much Zed
posted by goneill at 2:22 PM on August 9, 2012

Wonderful, thank you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:28 PM on August 9, 2012

Aw, this is so cool! I have been looking for more books about black abolitionists!
posted by Frowner at 2:53 PM on August 9, 2012

Thank you much gratitude for sharing and teaching me.
posted by sensi63 at 5:41 PM on August 9, 2012

Thank you for this.
posted by ltracey at 6:29 PM on August 9, 2012

I wonder if he's related to Thomas Ruggles Pynchon....
posted by Afroblanco at 7:14 PM on August 9, 2012

I also wondered that, Afro, I'd like this to help me pick up some threads of the Rainbow.
posted by sibboleth at 10:44 PM on August 9, 2012

I always knew Douglass was badass. I never knew that this Ruggles guy he mentioned in passing was also a hero.
posted by Sleeper at 12:04 AM on August 10, 2012

A terrific post about an incredibly gutsy man. Thanks for putting all that together.
posted by languagehat at 7:52 AM on August 10, 2012

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