Ward, Samuel Ringgold

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Ward, Samuel Ringgold

October 17, 1817
c. 1866

Abolitionist and clergyman Samuel Ward was born on Maryland's Eastern Shore. His parents, believed to have been William Ward and Anne Harper, escaped from slavery to Greenwich, New Jersey in 1820 and moved to New York City in 1826. Samuel Ward attended the African Free School, where Alexander Crummell and Henry Highland Garnet were fellow students.

Ward taught in black schools in Newark, New Jersey, until 1839, when he was ordained by the New York Congregational (General) Association. From 1841 to 1843 he served as pastor to a white congregation in South Butler, New York, and from 1846 to 1851 to a white congregation in Cortland, New York. During a period of poor health between the two ministries, he studied medicine and law.

In 1839 Ward was also appointed an agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and he embarked upon a career as an orator in abolition and party politics, for which he became known as "the black Daniel Webster." Active in the Liberty Party from its establishment in 1840, he addressed its convention in 1843 and lectured under its auspices, having particular effect in the defeat of Henry Clay in New York State. In 1846 Ward served as a vice president of the American Missionary Association, an abolition-oriented missionary group.

Ward fled to Canada in 1851 because of his involvement in the rescue of the "fugitive slave" William ("Jerry") Henry. From 1851 to 1866 he served as an agent of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada, as well as a member of its executive committee, lecturing against slavery as he had done in the United States. Under its auspices he traveled to England seeking aid for exiled and immigrant former slaves. He addressed the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1853 and 1854.

Ward was associated as agent or editor with a number of black periodicals, including The True American and Religious Examiner and the Impartial Citizen; in Canada he was the nominal editor of the Provincial Freeman. Ward also was the author of The Autobiography of a Fugitive Slave: His Anti-Slavery Labours in the United States, Canada, & England (London, 1855) and an account of the Jamaica Rebellion of 1865, Reflections upon the Gordon Rebellion (1866).

Ward was given land in Jamaica by an English Quaker and moved there in 1855, serving as a Baptist minister in Kingston. Little is known of his last years.

See also Abolition; Free Blacks, 16191860; Missionary Movements; Runaway Slaves in the United States


Winks, Robin. "Samuel Ringgold Ward." In Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1976.

quandra prettyman (1996)