Underground Railroad station back porch
@ Ohio History Connection
Ohio Federal Writers' Project
DescriptionCaption reads "Opening in back porch of house, located at 408 East Sixth Street, Cincinnati, Ohio, where slaves are said to have been stored awaiting shipment during slavery days. Photo by Writers' Projects. District #2. 11-12-36." The Underground Railroad was a system of safe houses and hiding places that helped runaway slaves escape to freedom in Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere outside of the United States. White and African-American "conductors" served as guides from place to place for runaway slaves. It remains unclear when the Underground Railroad began, but members of the Society of Friends, who were also known as the Quakers, were actively assisting runaway slaves as early as the 1780s. Some people living in Ohio began to help runaways by the 1810s. Several prominent abolitionists were from Ohio and they played a vital role in the Underground Railroad. Beginning in the late 1840s, Levi Coffin, a resident of Cincinnati, helped more than three thousand slaves escape from their masters and gain their freedom in Canada. Coffin's work caused his fellow abolitionists to nickname him the "president of the Underground Railroad." In Ripley, Presbyterian minister John Rankin served as a conductor and opened his home to African Americans seeking freedom. His home stood on a three hundred-foot high hill that overlooked the Ohio River. Rankin would signal runaway slaves in Kentucky with a lantern and let them know when it was safe for them to cross the Ohio River. He provided the runaways with shelter and kept them hidden until...