On July 19, 1816, twenty-three delegates from Quaker meetings at Centre, Carraway, Deep River, and New Garden organized the North Carolina Manumission Society at Centre Friends Meeting House in Guilford County. The delegates represented 147 members in the local societies. The antislavery organization alternated between meeting at Centre and Deep River until it disbanded after 1834. The Mendenhalls, along with the Swaims and Coffins, were the most active families in the organization. Female auxiliary societies were added beginning in 1825 by which time the delegates totaled eighty-one and active male membership in the local societies was 497. Members met resistance from many quarters and had difficulty retaining printers for their handbills and other publications. While printer Joseph Gales of Raleigh declined to perform the work, William Swaim of Greensboro was friendly to the group.
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The Manumission Society was the chief antislavery society in antebellum North Carolina. Little is known about the separate North Carolina Abolition Society organized in 1824. Yet historian Patrick Sowle acknowledged that the Manumission Society’s impact on state politics was small and that it went “barely noticed by most North Carolinians.” He counts as the society’s lasting achievement the group’s role in colonizing 420 slaves (sent aboard two ships) in Liberia. After 1830 participation in the society declined, due to westward migration and the rise of the more radical abolitionist movement. Its final meeting was held in 1834.
Patrick Sowle, “The North Carolina Manumission Society, 1816-1834,” North Carolina Historical Review (January 1965): 47-69
H. M. Wagstaff, ed., “Minutes of the North Carolina Manumission Society, 1816-1834,” James Sprunt Historical Studies, vol. 22, nos. 1-2 (1934)
Charles C. Weaver, “North Carolina Manumission Society,” Trinity College Society Papers, ser. 1 (1897): 71-76
Paul M. Sherrill, “Quakers and the North Carolina Manumission Society,” Trinity College Historical Society Papers, ser. 10 (1914): 32-51
Levi Coffin was an active member of the North Carolina Manumission Society