Many African-Americans from the Eastern Shore have played prominent roles in helping to shape the history of Maryland and the nation. Some served as leaders from the pulpit, a few worked as regular conductors on the Underground Railroad, and many served as educators, newspaper publishers, and in other ways.
Here in Cecil County, one of those leaders was Bishop Levi J. Coppin. He was born in Fredericktown, Maryland thirteen years before the Civil War started. The family Bible said “Levi Jenkins Coppin, born Dec. 24th, 1848.”
His mother, Jane Lilly taught the youngster to read and write and at the age of 17 he began to study scriptures. After moving to Wilmington when he was 17, he joined the Bethel AME Church. In 1877, Levi became a minister, eventually becoming the 30th Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. During his life-time he also served as an editor, educator and missionary. Coppin University is named after his wife, Fanny Jackson Coppin. She was a noted educator.
The Bishop published his autobiography in 1919. “Intermingled with this ‘Unwritten History’ is the story of my life. . . Those who are found of reading novels about men who never lived, and things that never did and never will happen, may enjoy a change to something that is historic and real,” the foreword notes. Of the nine chapters the first five concentrate on Cecil and Kent counties and his life here. The fifth chapter is entitled “Farewell to Cecilton.” He passed away in 1924.
This book is a helpful, seldom used local source for anyone studying the antebellum and Civil War era on the Delmarva Peninsula. In the antebellum period many land owners in the lower part of the county relied on slave labor for harvesting crops and performing plantation work. This valuable title provides information on the families in the area, slavery, some insight on the Underground Railroad, the arrival of Union Troops in the town, news of Emancipation in lower Cecil, and life in general for African-Americans during the slavery era.
A digitized e-book is available through the Internet Archive.