Charles Bennett Ray
December 25, 1807 – August 15, 1886
Publisher, Minister and Abolitionist

Charles Bennett Ray (December 25, 1807 – August 15, 1886) was a prominent African-American abolitionist, the owner and editor of the weekly newspaper The Colored American, and a notable journalist and clergyman.

Born a free man in Falmouth, Massachusetts, Ray was the son of mail carrier Joseph Aspinwall Ray and his wife Annis Harrington. He attended Wesleyan Seminary in Wilbraham, Massachusetts studying theology, and then in 1832 enrolled as the first black student at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut although his enrollment was revoked less than two months later after white students protested. He moved to New York City in 1832 and opened a boot and shoe store.


Ray became a Methodist minister and later a Congregational minister, serving as pastor of two predominately white churches in New York City, Crosby Congregational Church and Bethesda Congregational Church. Ray was a strong supporter of the temperance movement, and was a member of the American Missionary Association, the African Society for Mutual Relief, and co-founded the Society for the Promotion of Education Among Colored Children.


In the early 1830s Ray became involved in the abolitionist movement, and became a prominent promoter of the Underground Railroad. He was also co-founder and director of the New York Vigilance Committee and a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, assisting runaway slaves.

The Colored American

In 1838 Ray and Phillip A. Bell became co-owners of The Colored American, the fourth weekly periodical published by African Americans, and Ray became the sole owner and editor in 1839. The Colored American promoted β€œthe moral, social and political elevation of the free colored people; and the peaceful emancipation of the slaves.” Ray traveled throughout the north giving speeches condemning African American prejudice, and in 1840 became a supporter of the newly founded Liberty Party, the only publicly pro-Abolitionist political party.


Ray married twice: first in 1834 to Henrietta Green Regulus, who died two years later in childbirth; and again in 1840 to Charlotte Augusta Burroughs. They had seven children, including the first female African-American attorney, Charlotte E. Ray; her sister Florence Ray, who also became an attorney; as well as poet Henrietta Cordelia Ray, known for her eighty-line ode, Lincoln.

Charles B. Ray died in New York City on August 15, 1886, and is buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn.

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