Greensboro placed at the center of American history — “the earliest known” long-distance Underground Railroad scheme

Bound for Canaan, The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America’s First Civil Rights Movement by  Fergus Bordewich, was pronounced by the Wall Street Journal to be “an excellent book . . . as close to a definitive history as we’re likely to see.”

In Bound for Canaan, Bordewich says

By the 1800’s the North Carolina Quakers formed the only sizable abolitionist community south of the border states. Though isolated in an ocean of slaveholders, they were numerous and well organized, and had close links with relatives, friends, and fellow Quakers in the free states. They were uniquely well situated to lay a foundation for the earliest long-distance route of the Underground Railroad.

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Beyond the border states, only in North Carolina, where Quakers provided the critical mass of support, would organized emanciplationist sentiment survive on a significant scale, and produce men radical enough to break the law.

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Levi and Vestal Coffin [from the New Garden community near present-day Greensboro] were shortly to become the founders of the earliest known scheme to transport fugitives across hundreds of miles of unfriendly territory to safety in the free states.

So Bordewich puts Greensboro and Guilford County at the center of the history of the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness in America – a place Greensboro and Guilford have continued to occupy ever since, with the histories of Albion Tourgee, the Sit-In Movement, Henry Frye, the Klan-Nazi Shooting (also referred to as the Greensboro Massacre), and the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

WELL, Fergus Bordewich will be in Greensboro to speak on November 2. His topic:  “Still Bound for Canaan. The Underground Railroad, its History, and its Meaning for the Twenty-First Century.

That event will be free and open to the public.

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