The Road Most Taken Pt. 2: Roots

Hello! If you’ve made it this far, congratulations on overlooking my questionable pun (just wait for the next title). While the walk and the journey were refreshing and inspiring by themselves, my main objective for the walk was to visit the historical Underground Railroad tree in the Guilford Woods. This tree was my primary reason for selecting the Guilford Woods in the first place. My sophomore year, we went on a walk with my APUSH class. Before I delve into the explicit history of the tree itself, I want to discuss some of the history of the Quaker Movement and the people that helped manage the Underground Railroad “stop” in this area.

Guilford College was founded by the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, in 1837. Quakers have left their marks on several walks of US history, starting with the city of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania, and going on to become some of the most active proponents of abolition and reform. Several notable Quaker figures have advocated for reform.

One of these figures was George Fox. George Fox was the 17th century English founders of the Quakers, called so since they “quaked” in front of God. He rejected the traditional oaths of the churches, regarding them as empty and meaningless. He began his ministry very publicly, preaching in large, communal spaces for all to hear. The Quaker movement appeared eccentric to many, as it rejected things such as flattering speech, which angered many in power. Their unusual ways led to immense persecution, and Fox was jailed for numerous years. When he came to America, he helped lay the foundations for movements of social reform and abolition that were reignited around the time of the Second Great Awakening, and shaped modern American society.

Nathan Hunt was a Quaker minister, leader, and principal founder of Guilford College. At the time he was advocating for abolition, there was great public resentment of abolitionists in Guilford County. He preached Quaker ideals across the continent, even traveling to speak to Indian tribes, and people in Great Britain and Canada. His leadership helped keep NC’s Quakers together, and he actively participated in regional politics. In Guilford College, which he helped found, he spread his ideas through frequent talks and exerted considerable influence in spreading ideas of abolition. His style of “missionary” preaching reflected that of the Second Great Awakening as a whole, and he sparked movements of reform.

Levi Coffin reflected the result of the spread of abolitionist ideas at the time. He and his wife set up their home as a “stop” in the Underground Railroad that helped free hundreds of slaves, similar to how Guilford College had a stop of its own. Called the “President of the Underground Railroad”, his Quaker faith avidly led him to support abolition and assist the fugitive slaves.

The efforts of all of these people reflected the sentiments of the Second Great Awakening and the Age of Reform, as people used God to take a better look at the society around them. These famous Quakers left their marks on society and advocated for freedom and egalitarianism, and hold an important role in American history.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *