David Ruggles, who was born free in Norwich, Connecticut, helped hundreds of fugitive slaves escape to safety on the Underground Railroad, such as Frederick Douglass. He also did a lot of traveling as a journalist, lecturer, and agent for an abolitionist weekly publication, where he argued that “our hope for victory, under God, is in the power of the press.”
Ruggles parents were both free. His family moved to Norwich when he was very young and set up home in Bean Hill, a wealthy suburb. David was the oldest of eight children. As devout Methodists, he was educated at Sabbath Schools. Ruggles was so bright that local residents paid for a tutor from Yale to teach him Latin.
Ruggles was especially active against “kidnappers,” bounty hunters who made a living by capturing escaped slaves. With the demand being high for slaves in the Deep South, there was also much risk from men who kidnapped free blacks and sold them into slavery. Ruggles fought for fugitive slaves to have the right to jury trials and helped arrange legal assistance for them. He also wrote several anti-slavery pamphlets including Extinguisher, Extinguished (1834) and Abrogation of the Seventh Commandment by the American Churches (1835).
His activism earned him many enemies. He paid a high price for his views, and one of his shops was burnt to the ground by a white mob. Ruggles died in 1849.