Maysville Kentucky Blog

The Maysville Kentucky Blog is your guide to the beautiful and historic small town of Maysville Kentucky, snuggled into the rolling hills along the Ohio River. Though this blog has been discontinued, you can get your Maysville Kentucky fix over at Ken Downing's Mason County Kentucky Blog @

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Black History Month: John Rankin

John Rankin Portrait
From Wikipedia: John Rankin (1793 - 1886) was a Presbyterian minister, educator and abolitionist. Upon moving to Ripley, Ohio in 1822, he became known as one of Ohio's first and most active "conductors" on the Underground Railroad. Prominent pre-Civil War abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe were influenced by Rankin's writings and work in the anti-slavery movement.

Early in his time in Ripley, Rankin learned that his brother Thomas, a merchant in Augusta County, Virginia, had purchased slaves. He was provoked to write a series of anti-slavery letters to his brother that were published by the editor of the local Ripley newspaper The Castigator. When the letters were published in book form in 1826 as Letters on Slavery, they provided one of the first clearly articulated anti-slavery views printed west of the Appalachians. Thomas Rankin, convinced by his brother's words, moved to Ohio in 1827 and freed his slaves. By the 1830s, Letters on Slavery had become standard reading for abolitionists all over the United States. In 1832, William Lloyd Garrison printed them in his anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator. Garrison later called Rankin his "anti-slavery father," saying that "his book on slavery was the cause of my entering the anti-slavery conflict."

John Rankin's Book, Letters on Slavery (click to read online version)

Rankin's home, high on a hill overlooking the Ohio River, was the escaped slave's first stop in free territory and one of the most famous of the Underground Railroad stations. The home is a National Historic Landmark, open to the public today.


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