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Levi Coffin, Reminiscences of Levi Coffin (1880)


Levi Coffin, Reminiscences of Levi Coffin (1880)


Levi Coffin,"The Reputed President of the Underground Railroad," which is the subtitle of his work, described his experiences in the discussions of slave emancipation prior to the Civil War. He summarized the formation of "manumission societies" and their participants and supporters, most prominently the Society of Friends (Quakers), of which he was a member. Coffin also included the importance of papers, such as the Greensboro Patriot, edited by William Swaim, and Benjamin Lundy's Genius of Universal Emancipation. In addition, he mentioned "several lenient slaves" who contributed to the emancipation discussions.


Levi Coffin


"The Quakers and anti-slavery," LearnNC, accessed January 18, 2012,


"Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the Reputed President of the
Underground Railroad; Being a Brief History of the Labors of a 
Lifetime in Behalf of the Slave, with the Stories of Numerous 
Fugitives, Who Gained Their Freedom Through His Instrumentality,
and Many Other Incidents:Electronic Edition," Documenting the American South, 
accessed January 18, 2012,






Greensboro, North Carolina
Jamestown, North Carolina
Guilford County, North Carolina
Randolph County, North Carolina

Original Format



Some plan of gradual manumission was the theme of general discussion at that day, but none of the advocates spoke or seemed to think of immediate and unconditional emancipation. Manumission societies were organized in different counties. The first, I believe, was organized at New Garden, Guilford County. I was a member of it, and can well remember the proceedings. We also had several State Conventions, which were largely attended, and at which addresses were delivered and speeches made, by prominent men. The various branches were represented by delegates. The first convention of this kind was held at Jamestown, in Guilford County, and William Swaim, editor of the Greensboro Patriot, took an active part in the proceedings. His cousin Moses, a lawyer of Randolph County, delivered a lengthy and able address, which was afterward printed and widely circulated. It was a strong abolition speech, and would not have been allowed a few years later. Several lenient slaveholders united with us in those meetings, and advocated plans for gradual manumission. About this time the same subject was agitated in East Tennessee, and similar societies organized in that part of the State.


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Levi Coffin, Levi Coffin, Reminiscences of Levi Coffin (1880), Civil War Era NC, accessed May 27, 2024,