David Ruggles, First African-American Bookstore Owner

David Ruggles was the first African American to own a bookstore. Ruggles promoted several publications that supported the end of slavery. This was astonishing when at the time in many places blacks were not allowed to read. In 1835  a white anti-abolitionist mob burned down his stores. 

David Ruggles

Ruggles traveled across the Northeast promoting the Emancipator and Journal of Public Morals. He also published the first journal written and edited by an African American. Even with all of these journalistic accomplishments Ruggles also helped over 600 slaves search for freedom along the Underground Railroad. He mentored greats such as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and William Cooper Nell in the movement and fight against slavery.

Sadly Ruggles’ health worsened causing him to become blind. Due to his sickness, he learned about hydrotherapy. It was said that he had the gift of “cutaneous electricity”, which is the ability to diagnose ailments by a sense of touch.

He later purchased land and a building to conduct his hydrotherapy treatments.  David Ruggles became famous in the field and modestly wealthy, offering a cure for ailments that were claimed by conventional medicine to be incurable.  His most famous patient was the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.

Credit: Black Past.

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