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Samuel Ringgold Ward, was one of the most prominent of the anti-slavery speakers in the nation by the 1850s. Born into slavery in Maryland, he escaped with his mother to New Jersey. In 1834 when he was 17 Ward was attacked by a pro-slavery mob in New York and was temporarily jailed. From that point he dedicated himself to the anti-slavery cause. By the 1840s, Ward helped found the Liberty and Free Soil Parties. Ward work variously as a school teacher, newspaper editor and minister. He led two predominately white congregations, a Presbyterian Church in South Butler, New York and a Congregationalist church in Cortland, New York. However after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 he moved to Canada. Ward remained outside the United States for the rest of his life, lecturing in Canada and Europe against slavery. In 1855 he wrote The Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro. Ward retired to Jamaica and died there in 1864. In the speech that appears below, Ward, speaking in Faneuil Hall in Boston, criticizes the then ongoing debate in Congress over the Fugitive Slave Bill.


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