Levi Coffin

Famous Abolitionist

The Famous Abolitionist Levi Coffin: A Brief Synopsis

Levi Coffin was a famous abolitionist who assisted in the safe escape of thousands of fugitive slaves by using his house as a station on the Underground Railroad for over twenty years.

The Famous Abolitionist Levi Coffin: Date of Birth and Parents

Levi Coffin was born on 28 October 1798 in North Carolina to Levi Coffin Senior and Mary, the only son out of seven children. As Quakers, they did not believe in the institution of slavery; strongly influencing Levi Coffin's abolitionist stance. From the age of fifteen, Levi Coffin assisted runaway slaves by providing them with food at his family's Guilford County farm until the family incurred the wrath of local slaveholders and were forced to relocate to Indiana in 1826.

Abolitionist and Underground Railroad station master, Levi Coffin
Levi Coffin, the famous abolitionist (public domain)

Abolitionist Levi Coffin: Education and Marriage

Levi Coffin was taught by his father at home until he was old enough to request a formal education, whereupon in 1821, Levi Coffin's cousin Vestal suggested opening a Sunday School for the local slaves. Whilst some classes were successfully held, some local slaveholders complained that their slaves started to ask for privileges and others were criticised by their friends for consenting to it. Therefore, to Levi Coffin's dismay, the Sunday School was open for a very short period; the first defeat he was to begrudgingly accept in his years as an abolitionist.

Levi Coffin opened his first school the following year and spent the remaining three years assisting the organisation of Sunday schools. He married Catherine White on 28 October 1825 before moving to Indiana to join the rest of Levi Coffin's family in 1826.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE FAMOUS ABOLITIONIST LEVI COFFIN

Name: Levi Coffin
AKA: The President of the Underground Railroad
Birth: 28 October 1798, North Carolina
Death: 16 September 1877
Famed for: Using his home as a shelter for thousands of escaped slaves on the way to Canada via The Underground Railroad
Parents:
Levi Coffin Senior and Mary
Siblings: Sarah Coffin, Priscilla Coffin
Spouse: Catherine White
Children: Jesse Coffin, Henry Coffin, Thomas Coffin, Anna Coffin
Religion:
Quaker

The Famous Abolitionist Levi Coffin: The Underground Railroad

Levi Coffin soon realised that their house was on a line that the Underground Railroad passed through; slaves would travel via the Cincinnati, Ohio or Indiana routes, often re-captured as the freemen that had valiantly tried to save them did not have the resources or the skill in concealing the fugitives. In a unanimous decision, Levi Coffin and Catherine decided to use their home as a station to assit the fugitive slaves; the Quaker community however, had concerns as to whether to discourage the Coffins or whether to assist them by providing food and clothing for the runaways.

The level of dedication required to assist with the Underground Railroad became taxing and yet Levi Coffin continued to persevere; gaining the nickname 'The President of the Underground Railroad' as he concealed thousands of slaves. He and his wife would be roused from their sleep at any given hour on any given day by a knock at the door. Levi Coffin would let them in and set the slaves in front of a fire before he would set to work caring for the horses that had travelled up to thirty miles that night; whereas Catherine would rise to feed anywhere from three to seventeen fugitive slaves.

This endeavour lasted for twenty years. Occasionally slaves had to be brought back to Levi Coffin's home again if slave hunters and their dogs were upwind, and sometimes a slave was too ill to continue their journey. Instead they would reside for months with the Coffins, until they could regain their strength. Where required they would pay medical expenses for the sick, and Catherine's sewing circle used to make as much clothing as they could.

The Famous Abolitionist Levi Coffin: Later Years

In 1847, the family relocated to Cincinnati, selling goods only made by freemen. Levi Coffin helped found an African-American orphanage in 1854 in Cincinnati and spent years after the Civil War assisting the newly freed slaves and was said to have raised $100,000 for the Western Freedman's Aid Society.

Sources:

  1.  Levi Coffin - Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the Reputed President of the Underground Railroad

  2.  Jonathan Shectman - Bound for the Future: Child Heroes of the Underground Railroad

  3. North Carolina University

  4. Ohio History Central

  5. Encyclopaedia Britannica

  6. North Carolina History Project

The Biography of the Famous Abolitionist Levi Coffin

  • The Biography of Levi Coffin, for Education and Learning
  • Levi Coffin's Efforts to End Slavery
  • Levi Coffin's Childhood and Upbringing

 

  • Quick Facts About the Abolitionist Levi Coffin
  • Information About Levi Coffin and The Underground Railroad

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