David Ruggles was born in Norwich, Connecticut, in 1810. After moving to New York City in 1829, he worked as a grocer.
Ruggles joined the anti-slavery movement and in 1833, he began working for the journal, Emancipator and Public Morals.
The following year, he became America’s first Afro-African bookseller when he opened a bookstore near Broadway.
Ruggles also wrote several anti-slavery pamphlets, including Extinguisher, Extinguished (1834) and Abrogation of the Seventh Commandment by the American Churches(1835).
Ruggles worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad (1835-38) and was one of those who helped Frederick Douglass when he arrived in New York. Douglass later recalled:
“I remained but a short time in this distressed situation. I was relieved from it by the humane hand of Mr. David Ruggles, whose vigilance, kindness, and perseverance, I shall never forget. I am glad of an opportunity to express, as far as words can, the love and gratitude I bear him.”
Ruggles was also secretary of the New York Vigilance Society, an organization that helped defend African Americans in court.
In 1838, Ruggles became editor of the Mirror of Liberty. In 1846, Ruggles opened a hydropathy center where he treated various renowned individuals, including William Lloyd Garrison and Sojourner Truth. He also campaigned for the desegregation of private transportation.
On December 26, 1849, David Ruggles died of a bowel infection in Florence, Massachusetts.