Ruth Mary Reynolds was an American educator and civil rights activist who developed a profound commitment to Puerto Rican independence – so strong that she went to jail for it.
She met Pedro Albizu Campos while he was interned in Columbus Hospital, in New York City. Shortly afterward, she co-founded and became executive secretary of the American League for Puerto Rican Independence. In 1947 and 1947, she appeared before the US congress and the United Nations, to speak on behalf of that cause.
In 1948, Reynolds became aware that in Puerto Rico, the police were beating and tear gassing students in the University of Puerto Rico. Some students had been clubbed on the head until they were unconscious, and had to be hospitalized.
Reynolds went down to Puerto Rico and conducted a four-month investigation. After hundreds of interviews, she concluded that the beatings were politically motivated. The police had been instructed to prevent the Nationalist Party – and especially Albizu Campos – from having any contact with the college students.
At that point, Reynolds decided to write a book about her findings. The finished manuscript was called Campus in Bondage, and was ready for publication in 1950, when on October 31, 1950, she was arrested for “conspiracy to overthrow the US government.”
In a letter to her sister Helen, Reynolds described this arrest:
“I was asleep in my bed at 2 am…and then, more than forty policemen and National Guardsmen, armed with rifles, machine guns and revolvers, came to the house where I was living alone…With more machine guns pointed at me than I had ever seen in one place, I did not resist. After stealing all my books and papers, they told me that they had no paper, but that they did have orders to arrest me.”
Carmen Perez, Olga Viscal, and Ruth Reynolds under arrest
Reynolds was imprisoned for 19 months in La Princesa and Arecibo District Jail, and released in June 1952. The manuscript of Campus in Bondage had “disappeared” but Reynolds had sent a carbon copy of it to New York.
For the rest of her life, Reynolds never abandoned her principles. She testified repeatedly before the UN Committee on Decolonization and Campus in Bondage was finally published in 1989, the year of her death.
There is a collection of Ruth Reynolds Papers in the Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, at the Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños in New York City.