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The Courage of Ohio Abolitionists and their Connecticut Connections to Be Explored at February Talk
February 13 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm$0.00
A fugitive slave clutches her baby in her arms and gazes at the ice-choked waters of the broad river in front of her, the last boundary to freedom. Determined to escape the horrors of slavery, she braves the river and jumps from ice floe to ice floe to cross to the new life that lies on the opposite shore.
If you thought this story sounded like something from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, you would be right. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s character Eliza Harris does exactly this in one of the book’s most dramatic moments. But the Connecticut-born Stowe did not create this scene out of her imagination. This harrowing escape happened in real life during the bitter February of 1838 when a young woman crossed the Ohio River from slave-holding Kentucky to the free state of Ohio. The young woman found refuge in the Ripley, Ohio home of Presbyterian minister John Rankin. An ardent abolitionist, Rankin had made his house a significant first stop on the Underground Railroad, and between 1822 and 1865 helped an estimated two thousand escaped slaves make their way north to freedom. He also influenced many leading anti-slavery advocates of the day, including Stowe, who learned from him the story of the resolute young woman crossing an icy river to freedom.
The role of abolitionist leader Rev. John Rankin and other little-known anti-slavery advocates serving in the Underground Railroad will be the subject of a slide-show talk by Don Rankin, a lineal descendant of the Ohio minister and a retired surgeon from Madison.
Dr. Rankin will speak on Tuesday, February 13 at 7:00 p.m. at the Middletown Senior and Community Center, 61 Durant Terrace. The talk, sponsored by the Middlesex County Historical Society, is free and open to the public. Dr. Rankin was inspired to study his ancestor’s anti-slavery efforts and those of other abolitionists when the Reverend Rankin was inducted into the National Abolitionist Hall of Fame and Museum in 2013. “While others grappled with concerns about how ending slavery would impact the nation’s cotton-based economy or how the nation would educate or employ four million slaves, Reverend Rankin said simply that slavery was an abomination and its end could not happen fast enough,” says Dr. Rankin. “He and his family endured threats of physical violence – there was even a $3,000 bounty on his head to stop his anti-slavery efforts.”
For more information, contact the Historical Society at 860-346-0746.