New York City, NY

The First Black-Owned Bookstore in USA (and NYC)

New York Culture

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Wikimedia Commons

(David Ruggles is portrayed in the middle of the picture)

February is Black History month, and many of us are trying to learn more about Black history and culture - not only this month but any time during the year. I already talked about the first black-owned restaurant and the first-ever black church in the United States. But what about the first black-owned bookstore? Books and education have always been an important part of our lives, and it's also something Black people have been denied for a long time as the education of enslaved Americans has been discouraged.

Who was the first person to oppose these human rights violations and open the first black-owned bookstore in New York City and the United States? Let's find out!

Meet David Ruggles

David Ruggles is an important historical figure. He was an African-American abolitionist, activist and writer who helped hundreds escape slavery.

In 1828, he opened a grocery shop, where he set up a reading space for African-Americans. Sadly, Black people were denied access to New York's public libraries, so Ruggles wanted to give them access to educational materials. He started selling and allowing people to borrow around 3,000 books per week. After a while, that figure increased to 50,000 books a week. Most of the books David sold were anti-slavery and feminist books. Unfortunately, the bookstore got destroyed by a mob in a fire several years later.

Knowing about David Ruggles' efforts to educate the Black community and abolish slavery, The Emancipator, the anti-slavery and pro-abolitionist publication in NYC, appointed him as their writing agent in 1832. David started writing for different newspapers and magazines in the city, and in 1838, he created the first journal to be published by an African-American author: The Mirror of Liberty.

Ruggles made a significant contribution to the anti-slavery movement, but he is also remembered by the first-ever Black bookstore owner in the country.

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