Quakers played the most significant role in manumitting slaves after the Revolutionary War. In 1780, they began their crusade to free over eight hundred slaves who remained in Lancaster County. The first step was the creation of the Abolition Act of 1780, which freed slaves after they turned the age of twenty-eight and made it manditory for all northern slaveowners to hold official documents allowing them to own slaves. This Act also made it necessary for slaveowners to register each of their slaves for government records. Between 1780-1800, slavery gradually vanished from Lancaster County. Quakers formed the Society of Religious Friends to gather abolitionists from around the community.
Referred to as the President of the
Underground Railroad, Levi
Coffin was one of the most notable Quaker abolitionists. He helped
more that 2,000 slaves reach freedom, and not a single one of the slaves
he helped were recaptured. Coffin wrote a detailed account of his
life's work attempting to abolish slavery and to free slaves in 1876. He
included many heart wrenching stories of slave conditions and escape attempts
both successful and unsuccessful.
The House of Levi Coffin and Levi Coffin: in thanks to Waynet,inc.
The majority of the abolitionists in Lancaster
County were Quakers, but there was only a small percentage of that Quaker
community which aided in the abolition process. Most of the Quakers
were prejudice and they would not open their hearts for fugitives.
Many Quakers felt the desire to help escaping slaves on their way to Canada,
but because of the Fugitive Slave Act, this was, strictly speaking, illegal.
Thus, although slavery was strongly opposed by Quakers, there was a much
disagreement about how to oppose it, particularly in how to deal with slave
fugitives.The opposers brought up conflict at Quaker religious gatherings
and were always questionable when it came to hiding a slave. To the
fugitives, they considered help from a Quaker their last resort because
they never knew if that person was going to turn them into the United States
Underground Railroad in Southern Lancaster County
-- Pilgrims Pathway (17 Stations)
-- The Lancaster Journal 1794-1810
African American History in Southern Lancaster County Home
Underground Railroad throughout Pennsylvania / Classroom Activity / Abraham Lincoln / Bibliography
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