Who was Thomas L. Jennings?


Thomas L. Jennings was an Black American inventor, tradesman, and abolitionist.

Thomas L. Jennings was born free in New York City, in 1791. As a youth Jennings learned a trade as a tailor, which included dry-cleaning. Jennings built a dry-cleaning business and fell in love and married a woman who was born into slavery Elizabeth (1789 – March 5, 1873). Jennings used his saving from his dry-cleaning business to purchase his wife freedom, but she was instead converted to the status of an indentured servant and was not eligible for full emancipation until 1827. Jennings and Elizabeth had three children together, two daughters Matilda Jennings Thompson (1832 – Unknown), who was a dressmaker in New York and wife to James A. Thompson, who was an Mason, Their other daughter was Elizabeth Jennings Graham (March 1827 – June 8, 1901), was an teacher and Civil Rights activist, Whom won a court case after suing the Third Avenue Railway Company and it’s company racist conductor. They also had one son James E. Jennings (Unknown – Unknown), was a school teacher in New York City. Children born to slave mothers before 1827, were considered to be free, but were required to serve apprenticeships to their mother master until they reach their mid to late 20’s. Not wanting to have his children born into slavery, Jennings spent most of his earnings on legal fees to purchase his wife and some of his children out of bondage. Their daughter Elizabeth was the only child born free. Jennings was also very passionate about the abolitionist movement and he also help funded the abolitionist causes.


After building his dry-cleaning business, Jennings became well-respected in the Black community. Jennings was the first black American man to receive a United States patent. The patent was awarded on March 3, 1821 (U.S. patent 3306x), for his discovery of a process called dry-scouring which is the fore-runner of today’s modern dry-cleaners. Jennings success in gaining a patent resulted in a considerable amount of controversy. The United States Patent Laws of 1793, stated that “the master is the owner of the fruits of the labor of the slave both manual and intellectual, thus slaves could not patent their own inventions and the efforts would be property of their master”. But, Jennings was a free man and was granted full rights to his invention. In 1861, United States Congress passed a law to extend patent rights to slaves.

Jennings also supported the abolitionist movement and became active in working for civil rights of free blacks. He was active on issues related to emigration to other countries; opposing colonization in Africa, as proposed by the American Colonization Society; and supporting expansion of suffrage for black men. Jennings also served as assistant secretary of the First Annual Convention of the People of Color, which met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in June of 1831.


Thomas Jennings was a leader in the cause of abolitionism and Black-American civil rights. After his daughter, Elizabeth, was forcibly removed from a “whites only” streetcar in New York City, he organized a movement against racial segregation in public transit in the city; the services were provided by private companies. Elizabeth Jennings won her case in 1855. Jennings along with James McCune Smith (April 18, 1813 – November 17, 1865), and Rev. James William Charles Pennington (1807–1870), created the Legal Rights Association (LRA), in 1855, a pioneering minority-rights organization. Its members organized additional challenges to discrimination and segregation, and gained legal representation to take cases to court. A decade after Elizabeth Jennings won her case, New York City streetcar companies stopped practicing segregation.

Thomas L. Jennings died in New York City in 1856, at the age 65.




Who was James William Charles Pennington?


James William Charles Pennington was an Black American orator, minister, writer, and abolitionist.

James W. C. Pennington was born into slavery in 1807, on the Tilghman Plantation on the eastern shores of Maryland. When Pennington was four-years-old his mother was given to Frisby Tilghman, the Pennington owner son, as a wedding gift. They were taken to Rockland near Hagerstown in Western Maryland. Where Pennington was trained as an carpenter and blacksmith.

On October 28, 1827, at the age nineteen, Pennington escape bondage and was successful at doing so. In 1828, Pennington made his way North to Brooklyn, New York. Free from bondage Pennington found work as a coachman for a wealthy lawyer. Pennington wanted to learn so, began teaching himself how to read, write, as well as Latin and Greek. attended the first National Negro Convention in Philadelphia in 1831, where he met other Prominent Black Americans. Pennington became deeply involved in the abolitionist movement. Pennington also continued to be active in the Negro Convention Movement, becoming the presiding officer in 1853.

In 1840, at the age thirty-three, Pennington was called by the Talcott Street Church (now called Faith Congregational Church), in Hartford, Connecticut. While serving as minister, Pennington wrote the book on history of Black Americans, called “The Origins and History of Colored People“. Pennington was selected as a delegate to the Second World Conference on Slavery in London. After the conference he returned to Hartford, Connecticut after begin invited to preach and serve communion in churches. Pennington later persuaded his white colleagues to include him in their pulpit exchanges. He was the first Black pastor to preach in a number of Connecticut White Churches.


Pennington became good friends with a white man named, John Hooker and confiding in him in 1844 his status as a fugitive slave and concern about his future. Hooker opened secret negotiations with his former owner, Frisby Tilghman, but he and Pennington did not then have the $500 demanded by the master, who died soon after the negotiation attempt. On September 18, 1850, at the age forty-three the Fugitive Slave Law or Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress. The law required that all escaped slaves were, upon capture, to be returned to their masters and that officials and citizens of free states had to cooperate in this law and prosecution of fugitive slaves. Pennington happened to be in Scotland when the law was passed, which increased the threat to him as a fugitive. Pennington was called to New York in 1850 to serve the Shiloh Presbyterian Church, he feared returning while at such risk. Hooker worked with abolitionists in England to raise money to purchase Pennington from Tilghman’s estate (the planter had died). Friends of Pennington in Dunse, Berwickshire, in Scotland to help raised the funds. Hooker briefly took “ownership” of Pennington in order to manumit him to the United States.

After returning to the United States, Pennington helped form a committee to protest the segregation of the New York City (including Brooklyn) street car system; schoolteacher Elizabeth Jennings Graham (March 1827 – June 8, 1901),


had been arrested in 1854 for using a street car reserved for whites. Several private companies operated all the street cars and segregated blacks in seating. Jennings’ case was settled in her favor in February 1855 by the Brooklyn Circuit Court. When Pennington was arrested and convicted in 1859 for riding in a “white only” street car operated by another company, he was represented by the Legal Rights Association, formed by him, Thomas L. Jennings (1791 – February 12, 1859), and James McCune Smith (April 18, 1813 – November 17, 1865). It challenged the system successfully and on appeal, gained an 1855 ruling by the State Supreme Court that such segregation was illegal and must end. By 1865, after starts and stops, all the street car companies had desegregated their systems.


During the American Civil War, Pennington helped recruit black troops for the Union Army. When the war was over, he served for a short time as a minister in Natchez, Mississippi. Next Pennington was called to Portland, Maine, where he served as an minister for three years.

Early in 1870, he returned to the South, where he had been appointed by the Presbyterian Church to serve in Florida.

He later organized an African-American congregation in Jacksonville, Florida. James William Charles Pennington died Jacksonville, Florida on October 22, 1870, after a short illness, at the age sixty-three.




Legal Rights Association

What was the Legal Rights Association (LRA)? It was an organization formed to challenge racial segregation and a pioneering of minority-rights association.

The LRA was a foundational Black-American civil rights organization formed in New York City in 1855 to challenge racial segregation in the city’s public transit. The association founders were prominent black leaders, James McCune Smith (April 18, 1813 – November 17, 1865), Thomas L. Jennings (1791 – February 12, 1859), and James William Charles Pennington (1807–1870). LRA served as a powerful example to subsequent rights associations, including the National Equal Rights League (NERL) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Public transit aboard stagecoaches, streetcars, railroads, and steamboats was regularly segregated by race in the early nineteenth century. Black and white abolitionists who crusaded against southern slavery also challenged racial prejudice and discrimination in the “free” northern states. Beginning in Massachusetts in the late 1830s, activists challenged racial segregation and discrimination in public transportation. After a black woman named Elizabeth Jennings Graham (March 1827 – June 8, 1901), was ejected from a “white’s only” streetcar in New York in July 1854, her father Thomas L. Jennings, sued the streetcar company and won damages for what the jury deemed an unlawful ejection. Following the decision, Jennings and prominent black activists Dr. James McCune Smith and James W. C. Pennington formed the Legal Rights Association to continue the struggle against segregation in New York. Their near decade-long crusade was completed in 1864, when another black woman, Ellen Anderson, successfully sued a policeman who had aided in her ejection from a “white’s only” streetcar.

The Legal Rights Association pioneered long-lasting practices of minority-rights advocacy that subsequent civil-rights and civil-liberties activists have used. This included waging public-opinion campaigns, lobbying officials, fundraising, organizing the local community, civil disobedience, and initiating “test cases” to challenge racial discrimination in court. The LRA amassed a legal defense fund to support the legal costs of its members who challenged segregation in court.

Who was James McCune Smith?


James McCune Smith was an Black American physician, apothecary, abolitionist, and author.

James M. Smith was born free in New York City on April 18, 1813, the son of an former slave mother, Lavinia Smith (1783 – 1860 or 1870). Lavinia achieved her freedom before James was born. His father was believed to be a white merchant, and likely his mother reformer master Samuel Smith.

Smith education began at the African Free School #2, in Manhattan, New York. Smith was described as an “exceptionally bright student”. Upon graduating from the African Free School, Smith applied to Columbia University and Geneva Medical College in New York State, but was denied admission due to racial discrimination. Prominent Black Americans living in New York City, encouraged Smith to attend the University of Glasgow, in Scotland. Benefactors of the African Free School provided Smith with money for his trip overseas and education. Smith graduated from Glasgow at top of his class. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1835, his master’s in 1836, and his medical degree 1837. Smith also completed his medical internship in Paris.

Dr. Smith returned to the United States in 1837, and settled in New York City. Upon his return he was greeted as a hero by the Black community. At a gathering for Dr. Smith, he said “I have striven to obtain education, at every sacrifice and every hazard, and to apply to apply such education to the good of our country”. Dr. Smith became the first black American to hold a medical degree and the first Black American to be an University trained physician.

In 1840, Dr. Smith wrote the first case report by a black doctor, which was read at a meeting of the New York Medical and Surgical Society. The Board members acknowledge Dr. Smith was well qualified to become a member, but was not admit because of racial discrimination. Soon after, Dr. Smith published an article in the New York Journal of Medicine, the first by a black doctor in the United States. He drew from his medical training to discredit popular ideas about differences among the races. In 1843 he gave a lecture series, Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of the Races, to demonstrate the failings of Phrenology, which was a so-called scientific practice of the time that was applied in a way to draw racist conclusions and attribute negative characteristics to ethnic Africans.


In the Mid 1840’s, Dr. Smith married Malvain Barnet (1825 -), a free black woman who graduated from Rutgers Female Institute. Together the couple had eleven children, in which only five survived to adulthood. Dr. Smith established his own practice in Lower Manhattan in General Surgery and Medicine, treating both black and white patients. He also started a evening school teaching children. Dr. Smith established the first black-owned and operated pharmacy in the United States, located at 93 West Broadway (near Foley Square today). He used his the back room to his pharmacy , for his friends and activist to gather and discuss black issues.

In 1846, Dr. Smith was hired at the Colored Orphan Asylum, at the only doctor and medical director, in Manhattan New York. The orphanage was ran by white female Quakers. Dr. Smith job at the orphanage was to provide vaccination to the children and for them while they were ill.


In 1850, Dr. Smith was a member of the Committee of Thirteen. He was one of the key organizers of resistance in New York City, to the newly passed Fugitive Slave Act, which required states to aid federal law enforcement in capturing escape slaves. Dr. Smith committee aided fugitive slaves to escape capture and helped connect them to people of the Underground Railroad and other escape routes. During the mid 1850’s, worked with Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, February 1818 – February 20, 1895), to establish the National Council of Colored People, one of the first permanent black national organizations. At a convention in Rochester, New York, Dr. Smith and Douglass emphasized the importance of education for Black Americans and urged the founding of more schools for black youth. Dr. Smith work for the advancement of blacks did not stop there. He also was a prominent leader in the battle for Civil Rights for Northern Blacks minority. Dr. Smith joined James William Charles Pennington (1807–1870), and Thomas L. Jennings (1791 – 1856), in establishing the Legal Rights Association (LRA), in New York City. The LRA waged a nearly ten-year campaign against segregated public transportation in New York.

Dr. Smith opposed the emigration of free Black Americans to other countries, he believed that native-born Americans had the right to live in the United States and a claim by their labor and birth to their land. He gathered supporters to go to Albany and testify to the state legislature against proposed plans to support the American Colonization Society, which had supported sending free blacks to the colony of Liberia in Africa. Dr. Smith contributed money to revive the Weekly Anglo-African in 1861, as an anti-emigrations newspaper. His own writings were important for refuting commonly held racist assumptions of the time. By 1860, Dr. Smith was doing very well; he had moved to Leonard Street within the Fifth Ward and had a mansion built by white workmen. His total real property was worth $25,000 ($665,719.94 today).


In July 1863, during the three-day New York Draft Riot, in which most participants were ethnic Irish, rioters attacked and burned down the Colored Orphan Asylum. The children were saved by the staff and Union troops in the city. After the riots, Smith moved his family and business out of Manhattan, as did other prominent blacks. Numerous buildings were destroyed in their old neighborhoods, and estimates were that 100 blacks were killed in the rioting. No longer feeling safe in the lower Fourth Ward, Dr. Smith moved his family to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In the 1870, census Dr. Smith and his family were listed as white. During his practice of 25 years, Dr. Smith was also the first black to have articles published in American Medical Journals, but he was never admitted to the American Medical Association or local ones. In 1863 Smith was appointed as professor of anthropology at Wilberforce College, in Ohio. It was founded in a collaboration between the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME Church), and the Methodist Church of Cincinnati as a college for students of color before the American Civil War.

At the time, Dr. Smith was too ill to take the position. Dr. James McCune Smith died two years later on November 17, 1865 of congestive heart failure in Long Island, New York at the age of 52. This was nineteen days before ratification of the Thirteen Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which abolished slavery throughout the country. He was buried at Cypress Hills Cemetery, in Brooklyn.









What was the Colored Orphan Asylum?


The Colored Orphan Asylum was an institution and shelter for abandon black children in the United States.

Founded in New York City in May of 1836. The institution founders were Mary Murray and sister Hannah and Anna Shotwell. It was managed solely by women for more than a century. The purpose for the institution was a home for black children whom parents had died or parents simply could not care for them properly. The Colored Orphan Asylum only accepted children under twelve years of age. Education at the institution included the learning of a trade for boys, and domestic skills for the girls. Once a child of the institution reached twelve years old, he or she was released from the institution.



The Colored Orphan Asylum counted on the locals for donations to be able to feed, buy books, clothed, and pay employees. In 1846, Dr. James McCune Smith (April 18, 1813 – November 17, 1865), the first Black American man to hold a medical degree and the first black American to run a pharmacy in the United States, became the Institutions medical director.

By February of 1851, the number of orphans had risen to 114 and expenses totaling about $281.00 ($8078.47 in today’s money). And in 1860, with the number of orphans now at 180, the institution had managed to receive assistance from the local government at $0.60, a week per orphan (totaling to $17.25 in today money).


The orphanage is remembered best not for the good it did for Black children, but for what happened to it on July 13, 1863. On that day a hate-filled mob of white men and women ransacked the building, looting and burning it to the ground, igniting the New York City draft riots of 1863. The 233 children in residence were led to safety by the matron, barely escaping with their lives. On August 16, 1863 all the children were conveyed to Randall’s Island. Their orphanage was a blackened ruin. On November 12, 1863 the Superintendent of Unsafe Buildings directed that the charred walls of the Colored Orphan Asylum be taken down.  Almost immediately, fund raising began to rebuild.


The asylum was rebuilt by the Quakers in 1867 on 143rd street, Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway in Harlem. In 1944 the asylum was renamed the Riverdale Children’s Association. And as far the old location where the Asylum stood it was no longer rural, rocky terrain. The mansions of Manhattan’s wealthiest citizens had begun creeping up the now paved Fifth Avenue.


Who was Susan Maria Smith/McKinney/Steward?



Dr. Susan Maria Smith/McKinney/Steward was an Black American physician and author. Dr. Susan was the third Black American woman in the United States and the first in New York State to earn a medical degree. She specialized in Pediatrics and Homeopathy.

Susan M. Smith was born in March of 1846, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York, to farming parents Sylvanus Smith (1800 – 1875), and Ann Eliza Springsteel/Smith (1815 – 1896). Susan was the seventh born of eleven children. Her oldest sister was Sarah J. Smith/Tompkins/Garnet (July 31, 1831 – September 17, 1911), who was the first Black American female principal in New York public school system, and her brother in-law was Henry Highland Garnet (December 23, 1815 – February 13, 1882), who was an prominent Black American leader, abolitionist, and first black minister to give a sermon before the House of Representatives in the capitol building.


Susan early education involved music, but despite that in 1867, at the age twenty, Susan entered the New York medical college for women, graduating three years later and earning her M.D. in 1870, at the age twenty-three. She also graduated as class valedictorian. She later did post-grad work at Long Island College Hospital. She became the first Black American female doctor in New York State and the third in the in the United States.

After graduating Dr. Smith established her own practice in her home in Brooklyn. Which she ran from 1870 to 1895. Dr. Smith specialized in prenatal care and childhood diseases and which she written papers on both these subjects. On July 12, 1871, at the age twenty-four, Dr. Susan married William G. McKinney, a traveling preacher, and together the couple had two children, William S. McKinney Jr., who became a clergyman in the Episcopal Church in New York, and Anna M. McKinney/Holly, who became a New York City School teacher and married M. Louis Holly.


Dr. Smith McKinney was active in the Kings County Homeopathy Medical Society in the State of New York. She presented two important papers on the Homeopathy subject. One in 1833 and another in 1886. In 1892, the McKinney home was stricken by tragedy when William McKinney passed away. Four years later Dr. Smith McKinney remarried to Theophilus Gould Steward (April 17, 1843 – January 11, 1924), an ordained minister, U.S. Army Chaplin and Buffalo Soldier of 25th United States Infantry. Mr. and Mrs. Steward had one child together. Dr. Steward travelled with her husband for several years throughout the West earning medical licenses in Montana and Wyoming. In 1907, Theophilus retired from the military and moved his family to Ohio, where Dr. Steward and Theophilus began working at Wilberforce University. Dr. Steward was hire first at Wilberforce University as a resident physician and faculty member to teach health and nutrition. Rev. Theophilus joined Wilberforce University shorty there after to teach history.


Dr. Steward was involved in local missionary work and women’s suffrage advocacy. She was also the president of the Brooklyn Women’s Christian Temperance Union No.6. In 1909, the Steward’s vacationed in Europe, only to return again in 1911, when Dr. Steward presented a paper entitled “Colored American Women“, before the first universal race of congress in London. By this time Dr. Steward was an accomplished public speaker and in 1914, she delivered another amazing speech entitled ” Women in Medicine“, at the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs Convention. Dr. Smith McKinney Steward practiced medicine for 48 years.


On March 7, 1918, at the age of 71, Dr. Susan Smith/McKinney/Steward passed away. At her funeral,

William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963), delivered the eulogy, and she was buried in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery with a monument to her achievements. Her grandson, William S. McKinney Jr., persistently prompted the New York City Board of Education to rename a Brooklyn school the Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Junior High School in 1975. Later, the Susan Smith McKinney Steward Medical Society was founded by Black American women doctors in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Black Americans and the Free Product Movement

What was the Free Produce Movement? It was a boycott against goods produced by slave labor. It came about as a method to fight slavery by having consumers buy only produce derived from non-slave labor; labor from free men and women who were paid for their toil. The movement was active from the beginning of the abolitionist movement in the 1790s to the end of slavery in the United States in the 1860s.

In 1830, Black American men formed the “Colored Free Produce Society of Pennsylvania“, subsequently, Black American women formed the “Colored Female Free Produce Society of Pennsylvania” in 1831. Some black businesses began to feature free produce; William Whipper (February 22, 1804 – March 9, 1876) was a Black American abolitionist, opened a free grocery next to Bethel Church in Philadelphia, and in the same city, a Negro confectioner used nothing but sugar from free will labor sources, who received the order for Angelina Emily Grimké Weld (February 20, 1805 – October 26, 1879), wedding cake. In New York, a supportive article in Freedom’s Journal calculated for its readers that, sugar purchased from slaveholders, only required one slave to cultivate sugar for 25 people. New York City’s small population of African Americans was said to require for their sugar the labor of 50 slaves.

Henry Highland Garnet (December 23, 1815 – February 13, 1882), preached in New York about the possibility that free produce could strike a blow against slavery. Black abolitionist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825 – February 22, 1911), always mentioned the free produce movement in her speeches, saying she would pay a little more for a “Free Labor” dress, even if it were coarser. Watkins called the movement “the harbinger of hope, the ensign of progress, and a means for proving the consistency of our principles and the earnestness of our zeal.”

In 1838, supporters from a number of states came together in the “American Free Produce Association”, which promoted their cause by seeking products from non-slaveholders, and by forming non-slave distribution channels. The Association produced a number of pamphlets and tracts, and published a journal entitled Non-Slaveholder from 1846 to 1854.

Who was David Ruggles?


David Ruggles Jr. was an Black American abolitionist in Brooklyn, businessman, journalist, and self made hydro therapist.

David Ruggles was born in Lyme, Connecticut on March 15, 1810, to free black parents, David Sr. and Nancy Ruggles. David Jr. was the oldest of eight kids. While David Jr. was still very young, his family moved to Norwich, Connecticut. David Jr. education began at the Sabbath School for the poor which admitted people of color starting in 1815. In 1826, at the age seventeen, Ruggles left his family home and moved to New York City alone, where he operated a grocery store. At first Ruggles sold liquor, but after becoming involved in anti-slavery and the Free Produce Movement, he stopped selling liquor. Four years operating a grocery store Ruggles decided to close the door and open the first African-American bookstore. Ruggles also did some editing in a New York journal called “The Mirror of Liberty” and also published a pamphlet called “The Extinguisher”. Ruggles became deeply involved in the abolitionist movement. His activism earned him many enemies and in September of 1835, a white anti-abolitionist mob physically assaulted Ruggles and burned his bookstore, but Ruggles did not let this stop him. He quickly reopened his library and bookstore. In March of 1834, Ruggles along with others prominent African-Americans such as, Henry Highland Garnet (December 23, 1815 – February 13, 1882), and William Howard Day (October 16, 1825 – December 3, 1900), created the Garrison Literary and Benevolent Association. The main purpose for the organization was to promote the abolition of slavery and the reformation of society.


Ruggles was also very active and an important figure in the Underground Railroad from 1835 to 1838. In 1835, when the New York Vigilance Committee was organized, Ruggles became the secretary and general agent of the organization. His work with the committee led to his involvement in many court cases, where he helped organize the legal defense against fugitive slaves who had fled to the North. Ruggles helped more than 1,000 fugitive slaves escape via underground railroad, Including Fredrick Washington Bailey (February 1818 – February 20, 1895). Later Bailey changed his name to Fredrick Douglass. Ruggles shelter Douglass for nearly two weeks at his home. Ruggles also help to arrange Douglass marriage to Anna Murray Douglass (1813 – August 4, 1882). Ruggles then sent the newlyweds to Massachusetts with money and a letter of introduction to a prominent African-American abolitionist there.


By 1842, Ruggles became very ill that he was almost completely blind and his physician told him, he didn’t think he would live more than two weeks.

Lydia Maria Childs (February 11, 1802 – October 20, 1880), a fellow abolitionist and friend learned about Ruggles health and had him brought to Northampton, Massachusetts to the Northampton Association of Education and Industry. They began applying home treatment hydropathic and after eighteen months of hydrotherapy Ruggles health was restored, but his eye sight was not completely restored. While in Northampton Ruggles learned about hydrotherapy Ruggles recovery convinced others of the effectiveness of hydrotherapy. He was said to have the ability to diagnose ailments by his sense of touch, called “cutaneous electricity.” Ruggles first patients included wealthy members of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, which further enhanced his reputation as a healer.


On January 1, 1846 Ruggles purchased land and a building to conduct his hydropathic treatments.  Ruggles became famous in the field and modestly wealthy, offering a cure for ailments that were claimed by conventional medicine to be incurable. Ruggles worked as a hydropathist until a recurrence of an inflamed optic nerve in his left eye in September 1849, placed him in the care of his mother and sister.  Three months later on December 26, 1849, David Ruggles Jr. died in Northampton, Massachusetts of a severe case of inflammation of the bowels. He was only 39 years old.

Garrison Literary and Benevolent Association

What was the Garrison Literary and Benevolent Association? It was a 19th century association of young Black American males, whose main purpose was promoting the abolition of slavery and the reformation of society.

The Garrison Literary and Benevolent Association was an all male club that began in New York City under the leadership of Henry Highland Garnet (December 23, 1815 – February 13, 1882), an Black American abolitionist, minister, and educator, David Ruggles (March 15, 1810 – December 16, 1849), an Black American abolitionist in Brooklyn, New York, and William Howard Day (October 16, 1825 – December 3, 1900), an Black American abolitionist, editor, educator, and minister. The club was established in March of 1834.

At their first meeting one-hundred and fifty Black American youth under the age twenty years gathered at a public school. The Garrison Literary and Benevolent Association name was controversial and drew immediate reactions. A city official told the young men, they would have to choose a different name for their society if they wanted to continue to use public facilities. The young men rebel against the threat, retain their society name and rented a new meeting space.

The Garrison Literary and Benevolent Association society faded in history. Nothing more is known about this society, but some said the Garrison Literary and Benevolent Association formed into Mason Brotherhood, but this is still uncertain.

Equal Suffrage League (Brooklyn)

What was the Equal Suffrage League of Brooklyn? It was an organization that advocated for voting rights for Black American women.

Equal Suffrage League was a Suffrage organization founded by Sarah J. Garnet ( July 31, 1831 – September 17, 1911), in Brooklyn, New York, in the late 1880s to advocate for voting rights for Black American women. Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward was a contributor to the founding of the organization. The group worked to abolish both gender and race bias.

After Mrs. Garnet became the Superintendent of the Suffrage Department for the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), the Equal Suffrage League affiliated with the National Association of Colored Women. The small organization initially met in Mrs. Garnet’s seamstress shop. In 1907 the Equal Suffrage League and National Association of Colored Women jointly supported a resolution supporting the principles of the Niagara Movement that advocated for equal rights for all American citizens.

The organization was short-lived, ending when Sarah Garnet died in 1911.