Four Abolitionists Named to Hall of Fame

(Peterboro, NY – Jan. 2013) On Jan. 31, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was proposed to the legislatures of the states by the 38th Congress and, by the end of that year, the amendment was ratified: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

On Thirteenth Amendment Day, 2013, the Cabinet of Freedom, the governing board of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro announces plans to induct four 19th Century abolitionists Saturday, Oct. 19. The 2013 inductees are the fifth set of abolitionists to be inducted since NAHOF was formed in 2004.

All four nominations were selected from public nominations to the Hall of Fame by the NAHOF Inductee Committee chaired by cabinet member Carol Faulkner, Ph.D. Dr. Faulkner worked with a committee of scholars from around the country who reviewed the written nomination forms.

An abolition symposia during the afternoon of Oct. 19 will include lectures on each of the four inductees. Following the annual NAHOF dinner, evening induction ceremonies will include brief nomination speeches by family, associations, and societies, the unveiling of the official Hall of Fame portraits created by artist Joseph Flores of Rochester, and dramatic presentations. The public is encouraged to join.

The 2013 inductees to the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum are:

Born in Maine, Elijah Parish Lovejoy (1802-1837) became editor of the St. Louis Observer and a teacher. After becoming a Presbyterian minister, he preached abolition and continued his anti-slavery newspaper even as his presses were destroyed by pro-slavery mobs. As editor of the antislavery newspaper The Alton Observer in Alton, Ill., Lovejoy committed himself to pursuing the ideals of universal freedom and human dignity.

While defending his newspaper against threats from a proslavery mob in November 1837, he was murdered. This early act of violence against abolitionists angered northern residents and stimulated participation in the growing movement to abolish slavery. In response to Lovejoy’s murder, John Brown, instigator of the Harpers Ferry invasion, and Wendell Phillips, wealthy Boston orator, committed their lives to the abolition of slavery.

Myrtilla Miner (1815-1864) was trained as a teacher in New York state and first taught in northern schools. Aware that slavery could not end if blacks were not educated, she dedicated her career to that purpose. As a teacher at the Newton Female Institute in Whitesville, Miss., in 1845, she became appalled at the inhumanity of slavery, but was forbidden to teach blacks due to the intensity of local prejudice.

In 1851, she established a school for black females in Washington, D.C., where she faced a constant barrage of bigotry, harassment and threats of violence. Her dedication to continue teaching arose, as she said, from the “moral courage I carry in my own soul.” Miner’s birthplace in North Brookfield is a site on the Madison County Freedom Trail.

John Rankin (1793-1886), a white southerner by birth, was active in the original burst of antislavery sentiment from the American Revolution and Second Great Awakening. After moving to Ripley, Ohio, in 1822, Rankin learned that his brother Thomas, a Virginian, had become a slaveholder. He composed a series of letters on slavery to his brother that became one of the earliest and most effective calls for immediate emancipation.

Rankin became one of the nation’s best-known Underground Railroad conductors and the source for the real-life story that inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s fictional character, Eliza Harris, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In partnership with John Parker, the two men and their families turned the small village of Ripley into one of the key crossing points over the Ohio River for fugitives fleeing slavery, assisting approximately 2,000 runaways.

Rankin’s notoriety grew among embittered Kentuckians so that a $3,000 bounty was placed on his head. His home was targeted by armed slave owners and hunters demanding to search for runaway slaves.

Jonathan Walker (1799-1878), better known as the “Man with the Branded Hand,” was a Massachusetts-born antislavery author, lecturer and agitator. The case that secured Walker’s antislavery reputation occurred in 1844. Walker and his family had moved to Pensacola, Fla., where Walker managed a railroad property and invited black workers to his home for meals.

Already known for his anti-racist activities, bounty hunters captured Walker and seven fugitive slaves sailing for freedom in the Bahamas. In jail for one year, Walker was punished for “stealing slaves” by being branded with an “SS” by a United States marshal. John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem about Walker, “The Branded Hand,” became nationally known. His speeches encouraged abolitionist activity, and he sold copies of abolitionist literature to raise funds for the movement.

For future details and updates on the event contact: National Abolition Hall of Fame & Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro, NY 13134-0055, nahofm1835@gmail.com.

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