Books we are reading ~
- Who Was Harriet Beecher Stowe?
- Uncle Tom's Cabin
- Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas: An American Slave
- Frederick Douglass for Kids: His Life and Times with 21 Activities
- What Was the Underground Railroad?
In addition to these wonderful books, we had the opportunity to go to a Chautauqua History Alive performance of Harriet Tubman. It was a wonderful performance. The interpreter told about her adventures escaping from slavery and then going back to rescue many more slaves. While she was talking, she reenacted an episode of narcolepsy without warning us. Since childhood, Harriet Tubman had suffered from this condition ever since she was hit with a heavy weight on the head by a master. The performance was a perfect compliment to our studies.
I was pleased to discover that we only lived about six hours away from several Underground Railroad sites, including the Levi and Catherine Coffin home that I had wanted to visit since I was a little girl. I was raised a Quaker and heard about their harrowing work on the Underground Railroad all my life. Their home was a major station on the Underground Railroad, and they moved more than 2,000 freedom seekers (runaway slaves) through their home over a 20 year period. It is believed that they never lost a single freedom seeker. Their community was a great support to the Coffins' work by providing protection, clothes, and a look out system for slave hunters and runaways. The Coffins did many creative things to make their home work successfully as a slave station, such as having their well inside of their home, having hiding places built in and Levi ran a mercantile so no one noticed if he was buying lots of extra food for many freedom seekers. They hosted groups as large as 18 at a time and sometimes harbored people that were sick for up to six months. The bell in the picture below was used to call out the community as witnesses if a slave hunter was trying to break into their home. By law, only an owner of a particular slave could search a home and then they could only collect that particular slave.
|Coffin home in Fountain City, Indiana|
|The board at the end of the rocker bench kept a baby from falling out when the women were sewing and needed both hands.|
|This false bottom wagon could hold up to eight runaways at a time.|
|The Coffins built their well inside of their home so that no one would notice them needing to fetch water constantly|
because of harboring so many extra people.