Reverend Calvin Fairbank served nearly twenty years in prison for helping forty-seven enslaved men and women reach freedom in the North. Born in 1816, Fairbank began transporting runaways across the Ohio River in 1837. Once in Ohio he took them to Levi Coffin who would escort them further north and into Canada. He helped rescue Lewis Hayden, who would go to be one of Boston’s most prominent black abolitionists. This rescue was also the cause of his first imprisonment in 1845. He was sentenced a second time in 1852 for helping an enslaved woman named Tamar. Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Richard Jacob pardoned him in 1864.
James W. C. Pennington was an internationally known preacher and abolitionist. Born enslaved in Maryland, Pennington left behind two parents and eleven siblings when he took his freedom in 1828. After running away, Pennington learned to read and write from Quaker farmers in Pennsylvania. He continued his studies in New York, where he became a minister and an active participant in New York and Philadelphia abolitionist movements. In 1849 he received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from the University of Heidelberg in Germany.
Ripley, Ohio is believed to be one of the most active Underground Railroad Settlements in the region. Though very close to Kentucky, Ripley boasted two African American communities just outside of its town limits. Samuel Gist manumitted several hundred of his slaves, and his children purchased land around Ripley to establish free black communities. These former slaves provided clothing, food and shelter for those making their way to freedom.
Rochester’s proximity to Lake Ontario made it an ideal destination for fugitives seeking freedom in Canada and thus home to many abolitionists and anti-slavery societies and newspapers. Isaac and Amy Post and the Porter family sheltered runaways in their homes and helped them into Canada. These families were also founding members in Rochester’s anti-slavery societies including the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society and the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. Rochester was also home to famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass and his newspaper the North Star.
Salmon P. Chase was born in Cornish, New Hampshire in 1808 and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1826. After finishing college, Chase moved to Washington D.C. to work as a teacher and study law under William Wirt. After finishing his studies at Wirt’s firm, Chase moved to Cincinnati and became more actively involved in abolitionist concerns. A turning point in Chase’s life came during his role in the case Jones v. Van Zandt. Chase defended John Van Zandt when he was charged with aiding fugitive slaves. The court case went all the way to the Supreme Court, earning him the name “Attorney General for Run-Away Slaves.”
Samuel D. Burris was born a free man in Willow Grove, Delaware in 1809. He helped many enslaved men and women take their freedom on the Underground Railroad. While helping someone escape, Burris was captured, jailed and sentenced to seven years enslavement. Abolitionists Thomas Garrett and John Hunn hired Isaac S. Flint to pose as a slave trader and purchase him. Flint’s efforts were successful and Burris avoided enslavement.
Samuel Ringgold Ward dedicated his life to antislavery causes. He was born in 1817, three years before his parents fled slavery for freedom in New Jersey. The family soon moved to New York City where Ward attended the African Free School and worked as a clerk for David Ruggles. After teaching in New Jersey, Ward returned to New York to teach at the Colored Lancasterian School and became a licensed Congregational minister. He started several abolitionist papers including the Provincial Freeman with Mary Ann Shadd Cary. After his involvement in the famous 1851 “Jerry Rescue,” Ward moved to Canada and later lectured in England. After publishing his narrative he started a mission in Kingston, Jamaica.
Sarah and Angelina Grimké were two of the most visible, outspoken women of the abolitionist movement. Born in 1795 and 1805 respectively, the Grimké sisters grew up in a slave–owning family in Charleston, South Carolina. After relocating to Philadelphia they became Quakers and active abolitionists. In 1836 Angelina published her Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, garnering national attention for the sisters. They soon relocated to New York where they began careers as lecturers for the American Anti-Slavery Society. Their speeches inspired abolitionists and enraged slavery supporters, making the sisters the center of abolition and women’s rights controversies.
Sarah P. Remond was born in 1826 to John and Nancy Remond in Salem, Massachusetts. Her parents were extremely active in the fight for equality; her father was a lifelong member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Remond was an active participant in the Salem Anti-Slavery Society, eventually traveling throughout New England and Ohio as a pro-Garrisonian advocate. In 1858, she traveled to England for a yearlong speaking tour, never to return to the United States. She enrolled in England’s Bedford College for Ladies in 1859 and moved to Italy where she became a physician.
Disenfranchised black members of First Baptist Church began organizing amongst themselves, forming Second Baptist Church over the course of several months between 1836 and 1837. Madison J. Lightfoot, Cornelius Mitchell and William Scott formally withdrew from the segregated First Baptist Church in 1837, and all black congregants followed suit within that year. As Michigan’s first black church, Second Baptist played many roles in the state. In addition to serving as a center of spiritual growth for Detroit’s black community, Second Baptist was a well-known “station” on the Underground Railroad.