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Samuel Ringgold Ward, b. 1817
Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro: His Anti-Slavery Labours in the United States, Canada, & England
London: John Snow, 35, Paternoster Row, 1855.


Samuel Ringgold Ward (1817-1866) was born to slave parents on Maryland's eastern shore. In 1820, his family escaped to New Jersey and in 1826, they settled in New York. While there, Samuel attended the African Free School in New York City, and worked as a law clerk and teacher before getting his license to preach from the New York Congregational Association in 1839. He was married in 1838 to Emily E. Reynolds, and they had four children. From 1838 to 1850, Ward worked throughout western and central New York as a traveling agent of the American and New York State Anti-Slavery societies. In 1841, he became the minister for South Butler, in Wayne County, which was an all-White congregation, and he remained there through 1843. In 1846, he took the pastorate in Cortland and stayed there five years. Ward was also involved in politics, particularly with the Liberty Party, which he joined in 1840, and the Free Soil Party, which he helped found in 1848. He spoke publicly about issues such as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and voting rights for African Americans, and he wrote and edited several newspapers on those topics as well. In 1851, Ward and his family fled to what is now Ontario, Canada to avoid arrest. While there, he continued to work for the American Anti-Slavery Society, and in 1853, he undertook a fundraising trip to the British Isles on behalf of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada. Ward died after spending his last eleven years as a minister and farmer in Jamaica.

In 1855, Samuel Ringgold Ward published the Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro. Because he was removed from slavery at a very young age, Ward had no personal memories of slave life, although he does share what little he knows about his parents' experiences in slavery. Most of his narrative concerns his feelings towards slavery and his work as a minister with the antislavery movements. He also describes his trip to Great Britain in 1853.

Works Consulted: Finkelman, Paul and Joseph C. Miller, eds., Macmillan Encyclopedia of World Slavery, New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998; Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Monique Prince

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