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GLC Book Talk: Samuel Ringgold Ward: A Life of Struggle (Yale University Press, 2023)
Co-sponsored by the Amistad Committee; and Yale University Press
David Blight (Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center; Sterling Professor of History at Yale) in conversation with Richard J.M. Blackett (Andrew Jackson Professor of History emeritus at Vanderbilt University) about his new book, Samuel Ringgold Ward: A Life of Struggle (Yale University Press / Black Lives series, 2023).

Frederick Douglass, speaking of abolitionist Samuel Ringgold Ward, said “(as) an orator and thinker, he was vastly superior, I thought, to any of us.”

In his revelatory new biography, Samuel Ringgold Ward: A Life of Struggle, R.J.M. Blackett offers the first comprehensive account of this pivotal and largely forgotten figure in Black history, whose family escaped slavery when he was an infant, and who became a leading figure in the struggle for Black freedom, citizenship, and equality. Blackett traces Ward (1817– c. 1869) from his birth into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to a childhood in bustling New York City to his years in Upstate New York, where he became the editor of multiple newspapers and one of the first Black ministers of an entirely white congregation. Along with Douglass, he founded the first African-American labor organization and toured the Northeast
giving speeches advocating for abolition. Ward left America in 1851 after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law and he never returned.

Through Blackett’s telling, we are introduced to one of the greatest free Black men of the antebellum era and become immersed in his world and intellectual circles. Blackett captures the ideas that made Ward’s speaking and writing so potent, the struggles and disputes within the abolitionist movement, and his years in Canada and England, where he achieved great success raising money for abolitionist causes. Blackett also shines new light on the last decade of Ward’s life in Jamaica, which has been lost almost entirely to history.

May 4, 2023 04:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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