As we continue our celebration in 2022 of 350 years of Friends in North Carolina, we have easy access to a timeline on the Underground Railroad Tree at Guilford College website, which gives us a glimpse of how Friends dealt with slavery. A few entries of interest:
• [1754 – New Garden Meeting was established.]
• 1770 – New Garden Meeting urges Friends not to be involved with slavery.
• 1776 – Slave ownership becomes a disownable offense for members of North Carolina Yearly Meeting (NCYM).
• 1780s and 1790s – NCYM routinely sends petitions to the North Carolina Legislature stressing the immorality of slavery and the importance of abolition.
• 1808 – NCYM becomes a large owner of enslaved people, supporting them in local apprenticeships and assisting with relocation to freedom further north and abroad over the next half century.
• 1819 – John Dimery is kidnapped and escapes to the [New Garden] woods, an early documented example of the Underground Railroad operating in Guilford County.
• 1819–1852 – Active years of Underground Railroad activity in Guilford County.
In more recent times:
• 2009 – Publication of Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship by Donna McDaniel & Vanessa Julye. This book documents the struggles of Friends around slavery and their commitment to ending it, along with the hesitation of the Society embrace African Americans in real friendship. Highly recommended!
– Kate Hood Seel