David Ruggles had taken down some of the toughest slave holders and their fugitive slave kidnapping lackeys in the business. This slightly built, rather sickly, bespectacled African-American writer and anti-slavery activist was one of the most hated men in late 1830s New York. His life was a series of “firsts” – owner of the first black bookstore and library in New York, publisher of the first black periodical, and more. He and his activist associates, both black and white, formed the New York Committee of Vigilance.
They had taken anti-slavery opposition beyond the genteel outrage of the meeting hall and the broadsheet, and were doing their best to physically liberate any slave brought to New York City by a Southern master. They also worked with the legal system to free those captured by slave catchers and tossed in prison while awaiting extradition to Southern shores. These activities had earned him the hatred of those who profited from the slave trade, as well as the ire of his abolitionist peers, many of whom thought he went too far, too fast.
David Ruggles’ story can be found in the previous chapters of this story, linked below. When we left him last time, he had lost most of his money, his home, and his job. He had also found out that the cause of righteousness could be much more complicated than he thought. Like many dedicated activists to a cause, he had made several broad leaps into complicated situations without seeing all sides first, and had suffered the consequences to his livelihood and his reputation. His activities had also taken their toll on his health. (more…)