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Levi Coffin

Levi CoffinAKA Levi Coffin, Jr.

Born: 28-Oct-1798
Birthplace: Greensboro, NC
Died: 16-Sep-1877
Location of death: Cincinnati, OH
Cause of death: Natural Causes
Remains: Buried, Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, OH

Gender: Male
Religion: Quaker
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Activist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Helped thousands of slaves to freedom

Levi Coffin was only about 15 years of age when he began his work with the Underground Railroad, the network of clandestine activists across America who offered their homes and churches as safe respite for runaway slaves. Among abolitionists he came to be known as "President of the Underground Railroad", for his vast knowledge about the secret network. Throughout his adult life he funneled much of his income toward the cause, and his home was among the busiest of the Underground Railroad's "stations", where Coffin and his wife provided food and lodging for an endless stream of self-emancipated blacks, then took them to their next safe hiding places in his carriage -- equipped with a man-sized hidden compartment.

Coffin had little formal schooling, but prospered after starting a general store in Wayne County, Indiana. He lived in Newport, Ohio (now Fountain City) for about twenty years, where his home was refuge for about 2,000 escaping slaves, a few at a time knocking gently at the door in the dead of night. Among them was the young mother Eliza Harris, whose escape over the icy Ohio River was famously retold in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (Levi and Catharine Coffin are fictionalized in the book as Simeon and Rachel Halliday). In 1847 Coffin relocated to Cincinnati, where he opened one of the first "free goods" stores, selling only groceries and dry goods that had not been produced or shipped by slave labor, and eventually running a distribution center that shipped such untainted wares to other free goods stores. At his home in Cincinnati, he provided food and shelter for another 1,300 freed blacks on their journeys north. "The Bible", he wrote, "in bidding us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, said nothing about color."

Father: Levi Coffin (farmer, b. 10-Oct-1763, d. 30-Mar-1833)
Mother: Prudence Williams Coffin (farmer, b. 18-Mar-1758, m. 4-Jan-1786, d. 2-Jun-1845)
Wife: Catharine White Coffin (b. 10-Sep-1803, m. 28-Oct-1824, d. 22-May-1881)
Son: Jesse Coffin
Daughter: Priscilla Coffin

    Underground Railroad
    English Ancestry

Author of books:
Reminiscences of an Abolitionist (1876)


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