MADISON >> Following in the footsteps of one of his ancestors, resident Don Rankin will hold a forum Wednesday aimed at mitigating racism in today’s society.
During the discussion — 7 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church — Rankin will chronicle the development of slavery in the United States and recall the heroic efforts of those who championed the abolishment of it.
Rankin’s ancestor, the Rev. John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister and abolitionist, was one of the most active conductors of the Underground Railroad. After John Rankin moved to Ripley, Ohio, in 1822, he helped more than 2,000 slaves find their way to the Underground Railroad.
“(The) Rev. Rankin’s second house was way up on a hill and he would put a light up in the window and this was where slaves came across the river from Kentucky. Two thousand came through his house. He had nine sons, four daughters, and they were all involved in the Underground Railroad,” Don Rankin said.
While John Rankin helped countless slaves find their way to freedom, one woman’s story of her journey to liberation has been told for 165 years.
After a woman crossed the frozen Ohio River seeking refuge, while carrying a baby in her arms, she was caught by one of Ripley’s most notorious slave catchers, Chauncey Shaw. But after hearing her baby cry, Shaw led the woman to the Rankin House rather than returning her to her master, Don Rankin said.
“He told her she had earned her freedom,” Don Rankin said.
While Shaw warned the woman to keep his actions secret, she detailed the account to the reverend and his family. Her story would later serve as the inspiration for the character Eliza in the book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Don Rankin said.
But this woman is not the only one to have her story penned by an author. In 2003, author Ann Hagedorn wrote “Beyond the River: The Untold Story of the…