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Hege Library & Learning Technologies

Quakers, Slavery, and the Underground Railroad: Timeline

Resources in the Friends Historical Collection at Guilford College supporting research and topics relating to Quakers, slavery, anti-slavery efforts, and the Underground Railroad with special focus on Guilford County and North Carolina connections.

North Carolina Quakers and Slavery

•c. 1665  First Friends arrive in eastern North Carolina.
•1672  William Edmundson, a Friends minister from   Ireland, holds first documented religious service in   North Carolina.  Quakerism’s founder, George Fox,   visits later that same year.
•1680  First written record of Friends in North Carolina.
•1695  -1696  Quaker John Archdale serves as governor of the   Carolina colony.
•1698  North Carolina Yearly Meeting is established.
•1746  John Woolman visits North Carolina
•1750-1775    Friends from eastern North Carolina, Pennsylvania,   Virginia, and Nantucket Island migrate to piedmont   region of North Carolina
•1770  North Carolina Yearly Meeting adopts a statement   condemning the importation of slaves, restricting    purchase, and encouraging Friends to watch over   the morals of any slaves already owned but still    stops short of outright condemnation.
•1776  NCYM makes slaveholding a disownable offense.
•1777  Eastern North Carolina Friend Thomas Newby and   ten other Friends free approximately 40 slaves,    drawing the attention of the courts and the North    Carolina General Assembly
•1777  Law tightens manumission procedures, including   prohibition except for meritorius services as    established by courts and mandating seizure of    any “illegally” freed slaves.
•1779  Committee on the North Carolina legislature   reports “the conduct of the said Quakers in setting   their slaves free when our open and declared    enemies were endeavoring to bring about an    Insurrection and the Slaves, was highly criminal    and reprehensible.”
•c. 1800  Westward migration to Ohio and Indiana begins as   growing numbers of Friends leave the South. 
•1808   North Carolina Yearly Meeting begins owning slaves as a   measure to allow individuals to cease being slave owners    within the restrictions of laws against manumission.
•1813   Ohio Yearly Meeting founded (settled in part by North   Carolina Friends migrating to the Midwest).
•1816   First meeting of North Carolina Manumission Society held at   Centre Meeting in Guilford County.
•1821   Indiana Yearly Meeting founded (largely settled by North   Carolina Friends migrating to the Midwest).
•1822   North Carolina Yearly Meeting stops accepting slaves from   non-Friends seeking to manumit through the   processes    established in 1808.
•1830  North Carolina emancipation law requires posting of $1,000   bond for each slave to be freed to require good behavior and   insurance that the freed slave would leave the state within    ninety days.
•1831   Nat Turner Slave Insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia.
•1831   North Carolina law prohibits teaching slaves to read or write.
•1834   Last meeting of North Carolina Manumission Society held at   Marlborough Friends Meeting in Randolph County.
•1835   Revision of the North Carolina State Constitution disenfranchises   free blacks.
•1837   New Garden Boarding School, later rechartered to become Guilford   College, opens as a Quaker boarding school with fifty students (all      European American as the school would not integrate to enroll    African American students until 1962).
•1837   English Quaker and abolitionist Joseph John Gurney visits North   Carolina and the new school at New Garden.
•1844   Virginia Yearly Meeting laid down, leaving North Carolina Yearly   Meeting as the only yearly meeting located in what would become    the Confederacy.  The few Friends remaining in Virginia are attached   to Baltimore Yearly Meeting.
•1861-1865   During the Civil War Friends suffer hardships, deprivation and   persecution due to their stance on slavery. The North Carolina    Yearly Meeting suffers through the lowest membership in its history.