David Ruggles (March 15, 1810 – December 16, 1849) was an African-American abolitionist in New York who resisted slavery by his participation in a Committee of Vigilance and the Underground Railroad to help fugitive slaves reach free states. He was a printer in New York City during the 1830s, who also wrote numerous articles, and "was the prototype for black activist journalists of his time."[1] He claimed to have led more than 600 fugitive slaves to freedom in the North, including Frederick Douglass, who became a friend and fellow activist. Ruggles opened the first African-American bookstore in 1834.[2][3][4]

The Disappointed Abolitionists (1838) by artist Edward Williams Clay and lithographer Henry R. Robinson, cartoon of Ruggles (center), with Isaac T. Hopper on his left and Barney Corse on his right, confronting John P. Darg in 1838

Early life edit

Ruggles was born in Norwich, Connecticut in 1810. His parents, David Sr. and Nancy Ruggles, were free African Americans. His father was born in Norwich in 1775 and worked as a journeyman blacksmith. His mother was born in 1785 in either Lyme or Norwich and worked as a caterer.[5] Ruggles was the first of eight children.[6]

His early education took place at religious charity schools in Norwich.[2][7]

Bookstore and abolitionist organizing edit

In 1826, at the age of sixteen, Ruggles moved to New York City, where he worked as a mariner before opening a grocery store. Nearby, other African-Americans ran grocery businesses in Golden Hill (John Street east of William Street), such as Mary Simpson (1752-March 18, 1836). After 1829, abolitionist Sojourner Truth (born Isabella ("Bell") Baumfree; c. 1797 – November 26, 1883) also lived in lower Manhattan. At first, he sold liquor, then embraced temperance. He became involved in anti-slavery and the free produce movement. He was a sales agent for and contributor to The Liberator and The Emancipator, abolitionist newspapers. Due to the selling of anti-slavery publications, Ruggle's store was eventually destroyed by a mob.[8]

After closing the grocery, Ruggles opened the first African American-owned bookstore in the United States. The bookstore was located on Lispenard Street near St. John's park in what is today the Tribeca neighborhood. Ruggles' bookstore specialized in abolitionist and feminist literature, including works by African-American abolitionist Maria Stewart.[9] He edited a New York journal called The Mirror of Liberty,[10] and also published a pamphlet called The Extinguisher. He also published "The Abrogation of the Seventh Commandment" in 1835, an appeal to northern women to confront husbands who kept enslaved black women as mistresses.[1][11]

New York Committee of Vigilance edit

Ruggles was secretary of the New York Committee of Vigilance, a radical biracial organization to aid fugitive slaves, oppose slavery, and inform enslaved workers in New York about their rights in the state.[12] New York had abolished slavery and stated that slaves voluntarily brought to the state by a master would automatically gain freedom after nine months of residence. On occasion, Ruggles went to private homes after learning that enslaved blacks were hidden there, to tell workers that they were free.[1] In October 1838, Ruggles assisted Frederick Douglass on his journey to freedom, and reunited Douglass with his fiancé Anna Murray. Rev. James Pennington, a self-emancipated slave, married Murray and Douglass in Ruggles' home shortly thereafter.[13] Douglass' autobiography 'Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass' explains "I had been in New York but a few days, when Mr. Ruggles sought me out, and very kindly took me to his boarding-house at the corner of Church and Lespenard Streets. 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."[14]

[[ File:The first annual report of the New York Committee of Vigilance for the year 1837 - together with importance facts relative to their proceedings. (IA ASPC0001936300).pdf|thumb|Readable pdf of the First Annueal Report of the New York Committee of Vigilance, David Ruggles as secretary]] Ruggles was especially active against kidnapping bounty hunters (also known as "blackbirds"), who made a living by capturing free Black people in the North and illegally selling them into slavery. With demand high for slaves in the Deep South, another threat was posed by men who kidnapped free blacks and sold them into slavery, as was done to Solomon Northup of Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1841. With the Vigilance Committee, Ruggles fought for fugitive slaves to have the right to jury trials and helped arrange legal assistance for them.[1]

His activism earned him many enemies. Ruggles was physically assaulted and his bookshop was destroyed through arson. He quickly reopened his library and bookshop. There were two known attempts to kidnap him and sell him into slavery in the South.[15] His enemies included fellow abolitionists who disagreed with his tactics. He was criticized for his role in the well-publicized Darg case of 1838, involving a Virginia slaveholder named John P. Darg and his slave, Thomas Hughes.[1][16][17]

Later life edit

Ruggles suffered from ill health, which intensified following the Darg case. In 1841, his father died, and Ruggles was ailing and almost blind. In 1842, Lydia Maria Child, a fellow abolitionist and friend, arranged for him to join a radical Utopian commune called the Ross Farm (Northampton, Massachusetts).

David Ruggles Junior High School in New York City

|Northampton Association of Education and Industry, in the present-day village of Florence, Massachusetts.[1][16][18]

Applying home treatment upon hydropathic principles, he regained his health to some degree, but not his eyesight. He began practicing hydrotherapy, and by 1845, had established a "water cure" hospital in Florence. This was one of the earliest in the United States.[1][18][19] Joel Shew and Russell Thacher Trall (R.T. Trall) had preceded him in using this type of therapy.[20][21][22][23] Ruggles died in Florence in 1849, at the age of thirty-nine, due to a bowel infection.[2][19]

Bibliography edit

  • Clark, Christopher (1995). The Communitarian Moment: The Radical Challenge of the Northampton Association. Amherst: University of Massachusetts.
  • Foner, Eric (2015). Gateway To Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad. W.W. Norton and Company. ISBN 978-0-393-24407-6.
  • Gaffney, Paul (2004). "Coloring Utopia: The African American Presence in the Northampton Association of Education and Industry". In Christopher Clark; Kerry W. Buckley (eds.). Letters from an American Utopia: The Stetson Family and the Northampton Association, 1843-1847. Amherst, Mass: University of Massachusetts Press. pp. 239–278. ISBN 1-55849-431-6. Retrieved 16 December 2009.
  • Hodges, Graham Russell (Spring–Summer 2000). "David Ruggles: The Hazards of Anti-Slavery Journalism". Media Studies Journal. 14 (2). Archived from the original on 2007-03-07.
  • Hodges, Graham Russell Gao (2010). David Ruggles: A radical black abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-3326-1. Retrieved 31 August 2010.
  • General Lafayette (18 January 1830). "(Facsimile of letter from) General Lafayette to David Ruggles". Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  • Newman, Richard; Rael, Patrick; Lapsansky, Phillip, eds. (2001). "David Ruggles". in Pamphlets of protest: an anthology of early African-American protest. New York: Routledge. pp. 144–155. ISBN 0-415-92443-X. Retrieved 1 September 2010. Paperback ISBN 0-415-92444-8
  • Porter, Dorothy B. (January 1943). "David Ruggles: An Apostle of Human Rights". Journal of Negro History. 28 (1). Association for the Study of African American Life and History: 23–50. doi:10.2307/2714783. JSTOR 2714783. S2CID 150135247.
  • Porter, Dorothy (1995). Early Negro Writing 1760-1837. First published 1971. Baltimore, MD: Black Classic Press. ISBN 0-933121-59-8. Retrieved 1 September 2010. Hardback ISBN 0-933121-60-1
  • David Ruggles: A Man of Color (1834). The "Extinguisher" extinguished! Or David M. Reese M.D. "Used Up". New York: D. Ruggles. Retrieved 1 September 2010. (Note: The title page shows that in authorship, Ruggles pointedly identified himself as "A Man of Color")

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Hodges, Graham Russell (Spring–Summer 2000). "David Ruggles: The Hazards of Anti-Slavery Journalism". Media Studies Journal. 14 (2). Archived from the original on 2007-03-07.
  2. ^ a b c "David Ruggles". David Ruggles Center for History and Education. Archived from the original on 2017-10-27. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  3. ^ Highland, Kristen Doyle. "In the Bookstore: The Houses of Appleton and Book Cultures in Antebellum New York City." Book History 19 (2016): 221. doi:10.1353/bh.2016.0006.
  4. ^ Porter, Dorothy B. (January 1943). "David Ruggles: An Apostle of Human Rights". Journal of Negro History. Association for the Study of African American Life and History. 28 (1): 28. doi:10.2307/2714783. JSTOR 2714783. S2CID 150135247.
  5. ^ Bruce, Laurie (2014). "David Ruggles: Blind Man with a Vision". Rebels in Paradise : Sketches of Northampton Abolitionists. University of Massachusetts Press. p. 36.
  6. ^ Gao Hodges, Graham Russell (2010). David Ruggles: A Radical Black Abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City. University of North Carolina Press. p. 11.
  7. ^ Porter 1943, p. 25.
  8. ^ Pasquale, Andrew. "David Ruggles". David Ruggles Center for History and Education. Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  9. ^ "DAVID RUGGLES". THE CHISELER. Archived from the original on 2019-02-17. Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  10. ^ The "Quarterly" Almanac, 1893, edited by John C. Dancy, editor of A.M.E. Zion Quarterly (Wilmington, N.C.: s.n., 1893) (Daniel Murray Pamphlet Collection, Library of Congress) (Ruggles published Mirror of Liberty, one of the earliest African American journals in the U.S.).
  11. ^ Hodges, Graham (March 25, 2010). "David Ruggles". The Wall Street Journal. (Book excerpt from David Ruggles, chapter one: "A Revolutionary Childhood"). Retrieved 31 August 2010.
  12. ^ "Helped to free 119 slaves, John J. Zuille, famous in slavery days, still alive," The Sun (New York, NY), November 10, 1889, Page 22, Image 22, col 7 ("Phillips and [William Lloyd] Garrison I first met at an anniversary meeting of the Anti-Slavery Association. Those meetings were held here annually in May. The two gentlemen I mentioned had for their colleagues in their work Henry Channing, Charles C. Barlow, David Ruggles, and Louis Napolean.")
  13. ^ McFeely, William (1991). Frederick Douglass. New York: Norton. pp. 72-77, 97. ISBN 0393028232.
  15. ^ Letter to the editor from L.M.F. Hamilton, The New York Herald, July 24, 1872, Page 3, Image 3 ("I was in the Old Underground Railway depot, corner of Church and Lispenard streets, on the night of the raid by Boudinott and Nash for the purpose of kidnapping David Ruggles.")
  16. ^ a b Gaffney, Paul (2004). "Coloring Utopia: The African American Presence in the Northampton Association of Education and Industry". In Christopher Clark; Kerry W. Buckley (eds.). Letters from an American Utopia: The Stetson Family and the Northampton Association, 1843-1847. Amherst, Mass: University of Massachusetts Press. pp. 239–278. ISBN 1-55849-431-6. Retrieved 16 December 2009.
  17. ^ "Examination of the Black Man, Ruggles," The Morning Herald (New York, NY), September 10, 1838, Image 2, col 4 ("On Saturday afternoon, David Ruggles, the black, charged with aiding and abetting the slave Tom in robbing his master, concealing the fugitive, was brought out for examination before Justice Hobsen. A vast number of abolitionists, and other crazy fanatics, pressed toward the magistrate's desk to witness the proceedings, and who seemed to take a great interest in the result. The developments made upon the occasion, which we give below, fully justifies the arrest of Ruggles and his friend Corse, and exhibit the miserable gang to which they belong to be but a very little better than a band of freebooters.")
  18. ^ a b Sheffeld, Charles A, ed. (1895). "The History of Florence, Massachusetts". Including a complete account of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry. Florence, Massachusetts: published by the author. p. 107. Retrieved 16 December 2009. Full text at Internet Archives.
  19. ^ a b Strimer, Steve (July 17, 2006). "David Ruggles in Florence, Massachusetts". Retrieved 16 December 2009.
  20. ^ Wilson, James Grant; John Fiske, eds. (1888). "Shew, Joel (biographical sketch)". Appletons' Cyclopedia of American Biography. Vol. V. Pickering-Sumter. New York: Appleton & Co. pp. 508–509.
  21. ^ Whorton, James C; Karen Iacobbo (2002). Nature cures: The history of alternative medicine in America. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 89, 90. ISBN 0-19-514071-0. Retrieved 14 December 2009.
  22. ^ Iacobbo, Michael; Karen Iacobbo (2004). Vegetarian America: A History. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. p. 74. ISBN 0-275-97519-3. Retrieved 14 December 2009.
  23. ^ Trall, R.T., M.D. (1956). Drug Medicines (orig. 1862), The Hygienic System (1875) & Health Catechism (1875) (reprint ed.). Mokelumne Hill, California: Reprint by Health Research. p. 4. ISBN 0-7873-1200-2. Retrieved 14 December 2009.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

External links edit