This Pro-Black Activist Became The Prototype For Black Abolitionists

bookstore with shelves
Alyssa Guznik
January 28, 2023

Black education in the 1800s was regarded with disgust. David Ruggles was a Black abolitionist who initially made waves with his tiny bookstore in New York City. That bookstore was more than it appeared.

Ruggles opened a grocery store in New York City in 1827. Then, seven years later he opened the first Black-owned bookshop. Both the grocery and bookshop operated as libraries for Black people who weren't allowed access to public libraries

But Ruggles wasn't done yet.

On top of operating two businesses, Ruggles produced abolitionist articles and pamphlets. His printed works and leadership on the underground railroad made him one of the most hated men in New York.

His bookstore became a target.

Destroyed by angry whites, the loss of his bookstore didn’t stop Ruggles. He continued traveling and distributing anti-slavery pamphlets throughout the Northeast. By his death at the young age of 39, he'd written hundreds of articles, published at least five pamphlets, and operated the 1st African American press.

David Ruggle became the prototype for Black abolitionists. Though life has improved in many ways, embracing our Blackness unapologetically is still frowned upon. Like those who came before us, our fire and passion for truth and liberation won’t be extinguished.

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