: This 8 by 10-inch (20.25 by 21.25 cm) photograph shows the "Freedom Stairway," the 100 steps leading down from the Rankin House toward the Ohio River. The John Rankin House in Ripley was a station on the Underground Railroad. It is unlikely that the stairs in this photograph pre-date the early 1900s, but until documentation is found supporting the existence of the stairs in the pre-Civil War years, they can still serve as a reminder of the perilous journey of the fugitive slave and the welcome to be found at the top of the hill.
John Rankin (1793-1886) was a Presbyterian minister and educator who devoted much of his life to the antislavery movement. He is credited with helping 2,000 slaves escape to freedom. It has been said that a light was placed in the window of the house to indicate that it was safe for slaves to approach. The character of Eliza in Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was reportedly inspired by a story of a woman who crossed the partially-frozen Ohio River with a baby in her arms, making it safely to Rankin's house. The John Rankin House is now a museum, part of the Ohio History Connection's statewide network of historic sites. The current steps were put in place in the 1990s. View on Ohio Memory.
: Om1277_781125_121 Subjects
: African American Ohioans; Civil Liberties; Underground Railroad; Rankin House; Antislavery movements--Ohio--History--19th century Places
: Ripley (Ohio); Brown County (Ohio)