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Quaker Station

Quaker Abolitionists

The Quakers are considered the first organized group to actively help escaped enslaved people. George Washington complained in 1786 that Quakers had attempted to “liberate” one of his enslaved workers.  In the early 1800s, Quaker abolitionist Isaac T. Hopper set up a network in Philadelphia that helped enslaved people on the run. At the same time, Quakers in North Carolina established abolitionist groups that laid the groundwork for routes and shelters for escapees.

One of the earliest known people to help fugitive enslaved people was Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina. He started around 1813 when he was 15 years old.  Coffin said that he learned their hiding places and sought them out to help them move along. Eventually, they began to find their way to him. Coffin later moved to Indiana and then Ohio, and continued to help escaped enslaved people wherever he lived.                         

By the 1770s, all of the Quaker Yearly Meetings in North America were united on the proposition that the enslaved had a “natural and just right of liberty” and no Quaker should think to claim a human being as property. Slavery was, in Quaker eyes, a “national evil.”