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White Abolitionist

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White abolitionists played an important part in slave emancipation. Many people gave their lives to ensure the safety of black Americans in their pursuit of freedom. The sacrifices of these people are well documented throughout history, and more evidence is being produced by historians of how hard they worked. During the days of the underground railroad, there were many white supporters that helped thousands of slaves escape the hands of slavery. Many slaves praised their efforts and in return, helped them to the best of their abilities once they were freed by providing alternate routes and descriptions of slaves that were looking to run for freedom.

Levi Coffin was born on October 28, 1798 on a farm in New Garden, North Carolina, the only son of seven children born to Levi and Prudence Coffin. Because his father could not spare him from work on the farm, the young Levi received the bulk of his education at home, under instruction from his father and sisters. He shared with his relatives an abhorrence for slavery. In 1821, with his cousin Vestal Coffin, Levi Coffin ran a Sunday school for blacks at New Garden where the slaves where taught to read using the Bible. Alarmed slave owners, however, soon forced the school to close. Coffin, who married Catharine White, a woman he had known since childhood, on October 28, 1824, decided two years later 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. His business success led to him being elected director of the State Bank's Richmond branch. Levi and Catharine Coffin were legendary in helping many former slaves escape to freedom in the North. Levi is often referred to as the President of the Underground Railroad. During the underground railroad days, slaves used three main routes to cross into freedom: Madison and Jeffersonville, Indiana and Cincinnati, Ohio. From these points, the fugitives were taken to Newport. Once in the house, the presence of the runaway slaves could be concealed for up to several weeks, until they gained enough strength to continue their journey. So successful was the Coffin sanctuary that, while in Newport, not a single slave failed to reach freedom. One of the many slaves who hid in the Coffin home was "Eliza", whose story is told in Uncle Tom's Cabin

Even with his busy life as a merchant, Coffin was "never too busy to engage in Underground Railroad affairs." In fact, his business success aided him immeasurably in helping slaves to freedom. "The Underground Railroad business increased as time advanced," he said, "and it was attended with heavy expenses, which I could not have borne had not my affairs been prosperous." 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 by others in the community about why he aided slaves when he knew he could be arrested for his activities, Coffin told them that he "read in the Bible when I was a boy that it was right to take in the stranger and administer to those in distress, and that I thought it was always safe to do right.

The fearlessness the Coffins displayed in offering assistance to the fleeing slaves had an effect on their neighbors. Levi Coffin noted that those who had once "stood aloof from the work" eventually contributed clothing for the fugitives and aided the Coffins in forwarding the slaves on their way to freedom, but were "timid about sheltering them under their roof; so that part of the work devolved on us." Fugitives came to the Coffins' home at all hours of the night and announced their presence by a gentle rap at the door. "I would invite them, in a low tone," said Coffin, "to come in, and they would follow me into the darkened house without a word, for we knew not who might be watching and listening." Once safely inside, the slaves would be fed and made comfortable for the evening. The number of fugitives varied considerably through the years, Coffin noted, but annually averaged more than one hundred.

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 while living in the Ohio city. Both during and after the Civil War, Coffin served as a leading figure in the Western Freedmen's Aid Society, which helped educate and provide in other ways for former slaves. Working for the freedmen's cause in England and Europe, Coffin, in one year, raised more than $100,000 for the Society. In 1867, he served as a delegate to the International Anti-Slavery Conference in Paris. He died on September 16, 1877 in Cincinnati and is buried in that city's Spring Grove Cemetery.

Elijah Parish Lovejoy was born in Albion, Maine, November 9, 1802. Elijah Lovejoy traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to become a schoolteacher shortly after his graduation from college in 1826. In 1831 he decided to become a minister and began studies at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. Returning to St. Louis, he served as a minister there and published a religious newspaper that published criticism of American slavery. In St. Louis he was pastor of the Des Peres Presbyterian Church. He published a religious newspaper, The St. Louis Observer, and began to advocate the abolition of slavery. Despite the bitter feeling against him., Lovejoy persisted in arguing the fights of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom from slavery. After seeing a slave, Francis J. McIntosh, burned at the stake, his editorials became so strident against slavery that he became an object of hatred by both Southerners and slave-holders. His press was wrecked by a mob in July, 1836, and he moved to Alton in the free State of Illinois.

In Alton, Lovejoy became the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery in 1837 and the first pastor of the present College Avenue Presbyterian Church. He actively supported the organization of the Ant-slavery Society of Illinois which enraged the Alton citizens. He continued writing and publishing the Alton Observer even after three presses had been destroyed and thrown into the Mississippi River.

In the river city of Alton, Lovejoy's anti-slavery activities proved hardly any more popular. Furious mobs destroyed three of his printing presses by throwing them into the Mississippi River. On the historic night of November 7, 1837, a group of 20 Lovejoy supporters joined him at the Godfrey &



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