Fifty-four Riponites gathered in their Little White Schoolhouse on March 20, 1854, and formed a new antislavery party. They became the first “Republicans” in the Union. The Birthplace of the Republican Party National Historic Site, also known as the Little White Schoolhouse, is open to the public as a museum that explains Ripon’s role in forming a major political party.
What sparked their political activism was the introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, introduced in congress in January, 1854, by Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois. The bill threatened to extend slavery into the newly opening territories of Kansas and Nebraska, repealing the 1820 Missouri Compromise, which limited slavery's geographical reach.
The Little White Schoolhouse was named a National Historic Landmark in 1974 in recognition of its “national significance in commemorating the history of the United States of America.” From 2005 to 2007, the building underwent a complete restoration in accordance with the guidelines to preserve historic buildings.
Tour the Birthplace of the Republican Party National Historic Site and participate in an interpretive program that reviews local and national events of the 1850s that led to Ripon’s role in creating national political history. The site is open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day and weekends in May, September, and October. For more details, go to ripon1854.com .
Jason Mansmith is the Executive Director of the Ripon Chamber of Commerce.