Beyond the river : the untold story of the heroes of the Underground Railroad / Ann Hagedorn.

Bibliographic Details
Main Author: Hagedorn, Ann.
Format: Book
Published: New York : Simon & Schuster, c2002.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Although the title suggests otherwise, this book could serve as a biography of John Rankin, one of Ohio's most active "conductors" on the Underground Railroad. Rankin (1793-1886), a Presbyterian minister and abolitionist in Ripley, where the Ohio River separated the free state of Ohio from the slave state of Kentucky, was equally well-known among the enslaved and their enslavers. To runaway blacks, Rankin's house was a gateway to freedom atop Ripley's highest hill. To slaveholders in Kentucky, Rankin was a formidable force in the borderland war with Ripley, that "abolitionist hellhole," on the other side of the river. One of the earliest leaders in the antislavery movement, Rankin published his Letters on American Slavery in 1823, which became standard reading for American antislavery advocates. Hagedorn (Ransom: The Untold Story of International Kidnapping) brings to life the story of Rankin, his family, free blacks and the other forgotten heroes on the front line who assisted hundreds of blacks on the trek to freedom. Rankin's story is inspiring, but often not as captivating as those of the other heroes who are secondary characters here. The author brilliantly chronicles threats of midnight assassins, riots in Cincinnati and a pivotal trial in Kentucky in the 1830s, and a slave woman's nighttime escape across the icy river with her two-year-old (and the woman's risky return across the Ohio three years later to rescue her daughter and seven grandchildren from a Kentucky slaveholder). Hagedorn's decision to relocate to Ripley during the book's completion no doubt inspired her immediate and vivid prose, bringing these historical figures to a wider audience. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved