R. J. M. BlackettMar 15, 2023
Samuel Ringgold Ward
A Life of Struggle
Yale University Press 2023
Born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Samuel Ringgold Ward (1817–c. 1869) escaped enslavement and would become a leading figure in the struggle for Black freedom, citizenship, and equality. He was extolled by his contemporary Frederick Douglass for his “depth of thought, fluency of speech, readiness of wit, logical exactness.” Until now, his story has been largely untold.
Ward, a newspaper editor, Congregational minister, and advocate for the temperance movement, was considered one of the leading orators of his time. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 he fled to Canada, where he lectured widely to improve conditions for formerly enslaved people who had settled there. Ward then went to Britain as an agent of the Canadian Antislavery Society and published his influential book Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro. He never returned to the United States, and he died in obscurity in Jamaica.
Despite Ward’s prominent role in the abolitionist movement, his story has been lost because of the decades he spent in exile. In Samuel Ringgold Ward: A Life of Struggle (Yale UP, 2023), R. J. M. Blackett brings light to Ward’s life and his important role in the struggle against slavery and discrimination, and to the personal price he paid for confronting oppression.
Omari Averette-Phillips is a graduate student in the department of history at UC Davis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.