By age 23, David Ruggles (1810-1849), a free black, was working for The Emancipator, an anti-slavery paper. He was traveling, selling subscriptions, and seizing the opportunity to lecture. Ruggles’ speeches were famously impassioned and a stirring experience for his audiences. Nevertheless, unmitigated loathing for the abolitionist cause and racism ruled New York, the state Ruggles called home. And so, the formation of the New York Vigilance Committee in 1835 was more a defensive maneuver than anything else. Ruggles served as the Committee’s first secretary. He led the Vigilance Committee to provide practical assistance, such as food and shelter, to fugitive slaves. Ruggles became a notoriously aggressive abolitionist who would force his way into the homes of New Yorkers to inform their slaves that they were free. Ruggles postulated that for blacks to be moral, they must also be educated. He did his part by first opening a bookshop, and when the bookshop was burned to the ground, a reading room. Interestingly enough, Ruggles did not believe in the mingling of the races. He advocated voluntary racial partition. Ruggles’ health first slowed, and then put a stop to Ruggles’ leadership efforts. By 1838, he was nearly blind, and, by 1839, the emotional toll of his work and his physical frailness drove Ruggles into retirement.
Source: Underground Railroad Digital Classroom: Profiles