The D.C. Boarding House That Moved the Needle on Slavery

Where Abolitionists and Congressmen—Including Lincoln—Dined, Debated, and Became Bedfellows

In the early 1840s, where the steps of the Library of Congress now stand, a group of American abolitionists gathered in a modest boardinghouse to plot the destruction of slavery.

The house belonged to a relatively obscure Washingtonian, a widow named Ann Sprigg. In those days, boardinghouses like Sprigg’s were fixtures of the capital landscape—where congressmen, senators, government officials, and the like tended to live during legislative sessions. Quarters were often cramped. Men rented a room—or just a bed, or even half of a bed—and communed in shared bathrooms and living …

The Amazing Life of America’s First Full-Time Black Activist | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Amazing Life of America’s First Full-Time Black Activist

David Ruggles Was a 19th-Century Renaissance Man, Visionary Political Leader, Savvy Street Fighter, and Healer    

After he escaped from slavery in Baltimore in early September 1838, Frederick Bailey was broke, homeless, and scared. As he huddled among barrels in New York City’s Chambers Street dock, …