African American lawyers
African Americans - History - 19th century
Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895
Garrison, William Lloyd, 1805-1879
Miscegenation - United States
Ruffin, George L. (George Lewis), 1834-1886
Ruffin, Nancy Lewis
Williams, George W.
Women - New England - History - 19th century
The Heslip-Ruffin Family Papers pertain to several generations of the Ruffin family beginning with Nancy Lewis and George W. Ruffin, who were both ante-bellum free Blacks. The collection includes correspondence between various family members and letters received by members of the Heslip-Ruffin Family, including those by Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. Legal documents, biographical data, news clippings, printed ephemera, and photographs document the achievements of various family members, as well as various African Americans who achieved notoriety in a number of fields.
The earliest correspondence is between Nancy Lewis Ruffin and her husband, George W. Ruffin. The letters of this couple are all holographs, written by Nancy from Boston to her husband in Richmond, Virginia, after Nancy and her children moved to Boston in order that the children might have the advantages of an education, while George W. remained in Virginia and sent funds for the family's support. Other letters in the collection were written to the couple's son, George Lewis Ruffin, who became a judge in the Municipal Court of the Charlestown District. Among his correspondents were Frederick Douglass and George W. Williams. Furthermore, there is a small body of correspondence between members of the family - sisters, brothers, cousins and aunts. On occasion there is a note or telegram announcing the death of a relative.
Biographical data is included in the papers; the most noteworthy being the record of births and deaths in the family Bible. There is a negative photocopy of the sketch of Judge Ruffin in Simmons' Men of Mark; a copy of Massachusetts Women of Vision and Accomplishment, which includes a sketch of Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin; and data on Tobias Gilmore, an 18th century ancestor.
Bills and receipts document transactions of George W. Ruffin for food, furniture, and medical treatments. They are dated predominantly in the 1850s. Representative civic and legal documents are also included. Among this group of items is the marriage license of George Lewis and Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, the free papers of the teenage George Lewis Ruffin, and the document issued to him when he received his judicial appointment, which is signed by then Governor Benjamin F. Butler. Other manuscript items include a preface entitled "Other Bostonians", which was written by Florida Ruffin Ridley. Its subject matter is her family and Black residents of Boston.
Outstanding among the programs are a program for the dinner given in honor of Judge Ruffin upon the occasion of his appointment and a Boston Symphony program listing him as a friend of the Symphony and a member of the Honor Roll for the 1939-1940 season.
Among the clippings are items of historical significance concerning Frederick Douglass, the Underground Railroad, abolitionists, and Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin. Photos include members of the family and their acquaintances. Numbered among the latter are photographs of the family of Paul Robeson; author James Weldon Johnson; concert singer Roland Hayes, W.E.B. Du Bois; university president Charles Wesley; jazz pianist and bandleader Claude Hopkins; and attorneys C. F. Stradford, Albertus Brown, Euclid L. Taylor, William H. Hastie, and Raymond Pace Alexander. Also present is a photograph of William Henry Lewis, the first African-American college football player, the first to become a member of the American Bar Association, and the first to serve as U.S. Assistant Attorney General.