Historical Abolitionist of the Month: Levi Coffin

By Emily Balan

The fight to end slavery is rooted in history and extends until today. Each month we will profile some of the brave men and women, both contemporary and historical, who have fought to eradicate slavery. Our historical abolitionist of the month is Levi Coffin.

Levi Coffin spent his life opposing slavery. A Quaker, he established a Sunday school in 1818 and later organized another one for slaves. At first they had permission from their owners, but as the slaves’ interest in the school grew, their owners grew suspicious and banned it.

Because of this experience, Coffin joined the Underground Railroad. He sheltered runaway slaves and arranged their transportation to free territories. In some cases, he drove a wagon with hidden compartments full of escaping slaves. During 20 years of operation, more than 2,000 slaves took refuge in his home and made it to freedom. His extensive involvement earned his house the title “Grand Central Station” of the Underground Railroad.

A rescuer of slaves by night, Coffin was a businessman by day. He opened a store in Indiana 1824 and dedicated a large amount of his wealth to the abolitionist movement. His success drew him in 1847 to Cincinnati, Ohio—a larger commerce city. At his thriving wholesale store, he only sold goods produced by free labor and persuaded other businesses to boycott goods made by involuntary servitude.

Businesses all over the world can follow Coffin’s example to help combat today’s slavery. By monitoring and encouraging transparency in their supply chains, they can disrupt the business of human trafficking.

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Published on May 6, 2015

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