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The Ripley Anti-Slavery Society.

The Ripley Antislavery Society was organized at the Red Oak church on November 25, 1835.

James Gilliland served as vice-president, and John Rankin as secretary. There were 337 charter members, which made it one of the largest auxiliaries in the Ohio Antislavery Society.

Not only was it one of the largest, but it was also one of the few to eschew racial prejudice early on, accepting African Americans for membership.


At the meeting seven resolutions were passed, including:

Resolved that this whole nation is involved in the guilt of slave holding and in the degradation of the people of colour: and no citizen can absolve himself from this guilt but by protesting against the sin; and using all lawful and righteous means in his power for its removal.


Article 3 of the document states:

"This society shall aim at the elevation of the character and codition [sic]of people of colour

by encouraging their intellectual, morral [sic] & religious improvements and by removing publick [sic] prejudice; that thus they may according to their intellectual and morral worth share an equality with the whites

in the civil and religious privilidges [sic] but this Society will never in any way countenance the oppressed

in vindicating their rights by physical force."


At times vice President Rev. Gilliland presided in the absence of the president.

During a meeting in Ripley over which he presided, “he addressed the meeting at considerable lenth {sic} sharing the injustice, impridibility {sic} & folly of the whole scene of expatriation or

banishment from the country of the colored population." 

In 1840 , Gilliland was chosen as the society’s president. 

Gilliland’s leadership role in the antislavery society is just one of many examples of how he

“poured his life and ministry into ending slavery.”


However, he was not alone. Red Oak was “largely abolitionist,” as evidenced by the fact than many members of the congregation joined Gilliland in the Ripley Anti-Slavery Society including male and female members of the Hopkins, Kinkead, Salisbury, Shepherd, and Snedecker families. 

Information on this page is based on the research of Déanda Johnson, National Parks Service Historian, as part of the Church application for Network to Freedom Site status. For a copy of the research, including citations, contact us at

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