*This date marks the birth of Levi Coffin in 1798. He was an American
abolitionist and President of the Underground Railroad.
Levi Coffin was from New Garden, North Carolina, and the only son of seven
children. The young Levi received the bulk of his education at home, which
proved to be good enough for Coffin to find work as a teacher for several
years. In 1821, with his cousin Vestal, Levi Coffin ran a Sunday school for
Blacks. Alarmed slave owners, however, soon forced the school to close.
In 1824, Coffin decided to join his other family members who had moved to
the young state of Indiana. Establishing a store in Newport, Coffin prospered,
expanding his operations to include cutting pork and manufacturing linseed
oil. Even with his busy life as a merchant, Coffin was "never too busy to
engage in Underground Railroad affairs." Also, his thriving business and
importance in the community helped deflect opposition to his Underground
Railroad activities from pro-slavery supporters and slave hunters in the area.
Questioned about why he aided slaves, Coffin said "The Bible, in bidding us
to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, said nothing about color, and I
should try to follow out the teachings of that good book." In 1847 Coffin
left Newport to open a wholesale warehouse in Cincinnati that handled cotton
goods, sugar, and spices produced by free labor. The enterprise had been
funded a year earlier by a Quaker Convention at Salem, Indiana.
Coffin and his wife continued to help slaves via the Underground Railroad.
Both during and after the Civil War, Coffin served as a leading figure in
the Western Freedmen's Aid Society. Working for the freedmen's cause in
England and Europe, Coffin, in one year, raised more than $100,000 for the
Society. He died in September 1877 in Cincinnati and is buried in that
city's Spring Grove Cemetery.
Levi Coffin was an important man before the Civil War and even after it. He
and his family helped more than 2,500 slaves escape to the north. He also
raised $100,000 for the Western Freedmanís Aid Society.
Levi Coffin was born on a farm in New Garden, North Carolina on October 28,
1798. While he was still little, he started to abolish slavery. He hated
slavery and he wanted to help slaves. One day when he was seven years old
chopping wood beside the road with his father, a group of slaves walked by
with chains connecting them with handcuffs. Leviís father asked one of the
slaves why they were chained. The slave told him that their owners took them
away from their wives and children. It was that day when Coffin learned what
slavery was all about. He thought of how he would feel if his father was taken
away from him.
When Coffin grew older, he helped several slaves to freedom. In 1818, he helped
organize Sabbath Schools, and after a year it was open. In 1826, Coffin and his
family moved to Newport, Indiana. In Newport, Coffin opened up a merchandise
store. He and his children worked in the store while his wife cooked and worked
hard around the house. Coffin and his family stayed at Newport for twenty years.
During the twenty years, the Coffins were able to help more than 2,000 slaves
escape to the north, and slave owners never caught them.
In 1847, Coffin moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. In Cincinnati, Coffin opened up a
warehouse that handled cotton goods, sugar, and spices made by free labor. During
his time in Ohio, he helped even more slaves escape to the north with the
After the Civil War, millions of slaves that were freed still didnít have homes,
food, and education. Then an organization that Coffin volunteered to help in
called Western Freedmenís Aid Society, helped slaves by giving them homes,
clothing, food, education, and jobs. This organization needed a lot of money to
do that, so Coffin went to England and other parts of Europe and raised more
than $100,000. In 1867, he was honored by serving as a representative to the
InternationalAnti-Slavery Conference in Paris. When he was 76 years old, Coffin
died. Levi Coffin was an amazing person to the end.
The Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, and Levi Coffin were all very important
to the slaves in the south. They all helped slaves escape to the north on the
The Underground Railroad was a system to help free slaves from the south and escape
to the North or Canada. It began at the end of the 18th century. The Underground
Railroad wasnít underground and it wasnít a railroad. It was made up of houses and
buildings all the way to the north. The Underground Railroad was built by thousands
of people. This system helped get hundreds of slaves to the north every year
because it made secret routes and hideouts for the escaping slaves. Overall, the
Underground Railroad helped free about 100,000 slaves from the south from 1810
For the slaves, running away to the north through the Underground Railroad was
very hard. It was hard because southerners kept an eye out for the slaves. The
first step for the slaves was to escape from their owners. The slaves had to take
all their belongings and their children and would escape at night. The slaves
would travel 10 or 20 miles to the next station. A station was place for the slaves
to rest and eat. They got to the stations by following the station ownerís
directions. While they waited, a message would be sent to the next station to alert
its station owner that the slaves were on their way, so the station owner would
start getting the food and hideout ready.
The slaves would also travel by train or by boat, which sometimes had to be paid for.
Money was also needed improve and rebuild some parts of the Underground Railroad
such as the stationsí walls and flooring.
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