New York African Free Schools and Their Convention Legacies
Henrietta Regulus Ray
Henrietta Green Regulus Ray (1808-1836) was a prominent Black female activist in New York City and first wife of Rev. Charles B. Ray. Before her marriage, she lived in the home of close friend Samuel Cornish, notable abolitionist, founder of Freedom’s Journal, and business partner of Charles Ray. In 1828, she married a shoemaker named Laurent (Lawrence) D. Regulus who died later that year. Henrietta married Ray in 1834, and the couple had a daughter, Matilda, who died soon after birth. Both Matilda and her mother died of tuberculosis.1
Despite her early death, Henrietta G. R. Ray was an active member in the female Black community in New York City as an advocate for women’s education and independence. She helped establish the African Dorcas Association, a group who provided clothing to students of the African Free School. In 1828 she became the assistant secretary of the Association. Her most notable achievement was her election as first president of the New York Female Literary Society around the time she married Ray. The Society was “formed for the purpose of acquiring literary and scientific knowledge,” and Henrietta was among its “brightest stars.”2 Regulus Ray had very strong religious views from her childhood until her death. In her obituary listed in The Colored American, a newspaper edited by both Cornish and Ray, Cornish lamented over the loss of his dear friend and praised her for her beliefs and relationship with God, as well as, her contribution to her community.
Although Regulus Ray did not live to the time of the 1855 convention, she exhibited behaviors that suggest her beliefs and goals were similar to those of the convention’s. In Samuel Cornish’s obituary, he mentioned Ray having some sort of “useful trade” that she taught to many young women.3 Her active role in the African Dorcas Association and the Female Literary Society showed her support for the education and development of youth and women. She was also involved in fundraising for fugitive slaves and petition campaigns to abolish slavery in areas like Washington D.C. Charles Ray and his second wife, Charlotte Burroughs, chose to name their daughter Henrietta Cordelia Ray after Charles’ first wife as a way of honoring her accomplishments and memory.
Elizabeth Sobel, Black Literary History, Taught by Professor Pier Gabrielle Foreman, University of Delaware Spring 2013. Edited by Kelli Coles.
 Boylan, Anne. “Ray, Henrietta Green Regulus (1808-1836).” M-Z. Ed. Darlene Clark Hine. Brooklyn: Carlson, 1993. Print. Vol. 2 of Black Women in America.
  Cornish, Samuel E. “On the Death of Mrs. Ray.” The Colored American [New York] 4 Mar. 1837: n. pag. Print.