This interests me since I began writing a Shaker mystery novel 8 years ago while I was getting my MFA in Creative Writing.
A brief entry from June 29, 1848 in the South Family Journal reads: “A runaway slave comes from Indiana to find a hiding place.”
A later notation tells: “James F. to Albany with a runaway Negro to help him on to Canada.”
Between 1848 and 1860, the Shakers at the South Family in Watervliet assisted five fugitive slaves on their dangerous journeys to freedom. There may have been more that were not recorded. Like the Quakers, Congregationalists, Reformed Presbyterians, and other religious groups, the Shakers were a part of the Underground Railroad. Because the Shakers had several African-American members, their communities were perfect hiding places for runaways. By providing them with Shaker clothing, the fugitives could hide within plain sight. And, because Shaker communities were so insular and strictly guarded against non-Shaker visitors, there was plenty of protection.
The Shakers really were ahead of their time concerning beliefs about race…
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