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David Ruggles Center

225 Nonotuck Street
Florence, MA 01062

The David Ruggles Center for History and Education honors the contributions made to the abolition of slavery by courageous individuals in the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts. Our location in the village of Florence within Northampton commemorates those who came here to challenge slavery, live in freedom, and establish a community based on principles of race, gender, class, and religious equality. We seek to educate and inspire our visitors to possibilities in the present by sharing these powerful voices from the past.
Several strands of history meet in the oldest section of Florence, Massachusetts down by the Mill River, on Nonotuck Street, Spring Street, Florence Road and Lower Meadow Street. Here the Northampton Association of Education and Industry was established in the 1840s by a group of radical abolitionists. David Ruggles--the country's first African American bookseller, founding secretary of New York City's Vigilance Committee, assistant to over 600 fugitive slaves including Frederick Douglass--joined them in 1842. Here he established one of the first hydropathic hospitals in the country in 1846 and lived his remaining three years in the village that would become Florence in 1852. We name our education center in his honor and dedicate it to remembering this "utopian" attempt at founding a society of equal rights and social justice. We explore the growth of the factory village they created which continued as a center of abolitionism through the Civil War. We trace its emergence as a manufacturing powerhouse whose institutions continued to reflect the progressive ideals of the founders.
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