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History Notes

By France Griggs Sloat

While researching her thesis for a master’s degree in humanities, Mary Ann Yannessa learned enough about slavery and the abolitionist movement to write a book. So she did.

With the help of Friends United Press, a Quaker publishing house in Richmond, Ind., she converted her 1995 master’s thesis into a book about Levi Coffin, a leading abolitionist Quaker whose tireless efforts to aid runaway slaves earned him the title of president of the Underground Railroad.

“My interest in Quakers came out of a history course I took from [University President Michael J. Graham, S.J.]” she says. “Slavery’s a lifelong interest of mine.”

Levi Coffin, Quaker: Breaking the Bonds of Slavery in Ohio and Indiana is a concise history of the man who lived in Cincinnati from 1847 until his death in 1877 and successfully helped nearly 3,000 slaves escape to freedom. Published in 2001, the book chronicles the efforts of Coffin and his wife, Catharine, to hide runaways heading north.

She includes details such as how Quaker women secretly sewed clothes for the escapees who were hidden in their houses, and how Coffin himself took a man to court on charges of kidnapping his escaped slave in Ohio.

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