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Canadian History for Kids: John Rankin

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive looks at the heroic deeds of John Rankin, who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad . This story is a apart of our continuing Black History Month series.

John Rankin

In 1822, Reverend Rankin accepted a call from the Presbyterian Church at Ripley, Ohio. It was here that the famous “Abolition Letters” were written. These were a series of anti-slavery letters to his brother that were published by the editor of the local Ripley newspaper The Castigator.

As an abolitionist, Rankin realized his work in “The Underground Railroad” needed a useful location.

In 1829 Rankin moved his wife and nine children (of an eventual total of thirteen) to a house at the top of a 540-foot-high hill that provided a wide view of the village, the River and the Kentucky shoreline, as well as farmland and fruit groves that could provide sources of income. Folklore associated with the Rankin home suggested that a lantern or candle was placed in the front window to guide runaway slaves from across the Ohio River in Mason County, Kentucky.

With its proximity to the river and its owner’s stern opposition to slavery, the Rankin home was a perfect choice to become a stopping point on the Underground Railroad. The Rankin family was proud of never having lost a “passenger”. Most of the 2,000 escaped slaves who traveled through Ripley stayed with the Rankins.

The “Freedom Stairway” is the one hundred step staircase leading down from the Rankin House toward the Ohio River.

The Rankin House is a National Historic Landmark and Underground Railroad Station.

When Henry Ward Beecher was asked after the end of the Civil War, “Who abolished slavery?,” he answered, “Reverend John Rankin and his sons did.”

Keep following Canadian History for Kids, as we continue to bring you articles for our Black History Month special.

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