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David Ruggles: A Radical Black Abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City (The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture) Hardcover – March 15, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Few scholars have examined the relationship between the Underground Railroad, abolition networks, and the broader currents of political and social change. Graham Hodges in David Ruggles . . . dramatize[s] these relationships by recovering [a] forgotten, heroic African-American whose actions helped create fault lines in the spread of Southern slavery.--The Wall Street Journal

Hodges has diligently mined the primary sources to bring David Ruggles into the light. The result is this fine book. . . . One wonders why it has taken so long for historians to give Ruggles his due. Thankfully Hodges has done so. . . . This is a benchmark biography.--Left History

William Lloyd Garrison lauded [David Ruggles's] contributions to the abolitionist movement. 'He deserves to be ranked among the benefactors of his race,' Garrison wrote. 'His biography remains to be written.' . . . Dr. Hodges has now written the book Garrison called for more than 150 years ago.--New York Times City Room Blog

In this captivating biography, Hodges explores the life of one of the most important yet understudied abolitionists of his time, David Ruggles.--Historical Journal of Massachusetts

[Hodges] does a fine job detailing Ruggles' accomplishments and the fervor with which he pursued them. . . . Hodges has done the historical community a great service.--Maryland Historical Magazine

Hodges . . . skillfully weaves the life of abolitionist David Ruggles into the larger history of black abolitionists. . . . [He] convincingly argues that historians should reconfigure Ruggles from the margins to the center of abolitionist studies. . . . Highly recommended.--Choice

Mention American abolitionists and David Ruggles rarely comes to mind. . . . Graham Russell Gao Hodges goes a long way toward rectifying that oversight.--New York Times

Hodges contributes to a better understanding of antebellum black activism and to shaping a fresh synthesis regarding how abolitionism shook America to its core. . . . Essential for readers and scholars interested in antebellum America, the antislavery movement, black activists, or New York City history.--Library Journal starred review

Using a wealth of published materials and archival sources, Hodges masterfully places Ruggles within the wider world of nineteenth-century reform. . . . Hodges is able to uncover a brand of reform activism in the radical abolition community of New York previously hidden even to seasoned scholars. This volume will go a long way towards opening eyes to the importance of men like Ruggles in the struggle to overcome slavery and racism in nineteenth-century America." --Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

Thanks to the efforts of Hodges, David Ruggles will no longer remain a largely unknown abolitionist but rather will be seen as having played a significant role in the struggle against the slaveholding South and the segregated North.--American Historical Review


Graham Russell Gao Hodges has brilliantly captured the life of David Ruggles, whose mad courage and street-fighting savvy advanced 'a mighty revolution' against slavery. Once a hero to the enslaved and a terror to enslavers, Ruggles reclaims through this splendid biography his rightful place in American memory.--Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship: A Human History

In this exciting story of New York African American activist David Ruggles, Graham Hodges paints a dramatic picture of the nineteenth-century struggle against slavery. This captivating and brilliantly written chronicle fuses the activities of the interracial radical abolition movement and the underground railroad in the northeast.--James Oliver Horton, coauthor of Slavery and the Making of America and coeditor of Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory

A worthwhile and overdue biography, this is the only book-length work on one of the most influential black abolitionists of the antebellum period.--C. Peter Ripley, editor of The Black Abolitionist Papers


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"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture
  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1st edition (March 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807833266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807833261
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,142,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This is the book you want to read after watching the movie Twelve Years a Slave, because David Ruggles was the reason that Solomon Northrop escaped slavery. Ruggles organized the first ever "vigilance committee" in New York to protect African Americans from being kidnapped and sold into slavery. This committee of men ready to forcibly interfere with kidnappers stopped as many abductions as they could and succeeded in passing a state law in New York to rescue the victims that did get tricked into a kidnapping like Northrop. The law required the Governor of NY to personally be responsible for rescuing victims, which he did for Northrop after Northrop was able to get the letter to his family of where he was. Anyway, this is an amazing story of a Christian abolitionist who personally assisted several hundred fugitive slaves to escape, boldly protected the free blacks from kidnapping, and mentored other civil rights leaders like Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth and William Nell.
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The Author of this book does a nice job telling the story of a great but largely forgotten man.This could not have been an easy book to write.David Ruggles was a very brave man whose story needed to be told and it is an interesting book indeed.Graham Russell Hodges does a clever job writng this tale,pieced together from many different sources.He puts together a narrative of what it was like in New York and the surrounding areas in the days of the abolitionist movement and the underground railroad.He tells how one man dedicated his life to help others,often at his own risk.He brings you back to a time in New York where black men were kidnapped and brought south to be sold into slavery.David Ruggles would fight the oppressors and he had much success.Read the book.
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It was very informative.
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