By Linda C. Joseph Columbus Public
Schools Library of Congress
[Editor's note: URLs mentioned in this article appear
in the table below.]
a people and they will find a way to escape. As the Underground
Railroad developed, a metaphor unfolded that grew into
a culture and myth of its own. People were passengers,
although they never set foot on a train car; homes were
stations, but there were no tracks; conductors led a group
of people but never collected tickets. It was a road to
freedom that followed the drinking gourd, a code name
for the Big Dipper.
When did the Underground Railroad begin? How many people escaped between the
American Revolution and the Civil War? What were the code words used on the
Underground Railroad, and who were the people who risked their safety for a
cause that they believed was just? Let's travel back in time and learn about
the Underground Railroad.
Aboard the Underground Railroad
Aboard the Underground Railroad showcases 55 historic places that are listed
in the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places. Sketches
of the people associated with each home shed light on the historical significance
of the abolitionist organizations of the time. A map is included with the most
common directions for escape on the Underground Railroad. Individual state
maps marking the location of the historic properties make it an easy site to
Friends of Freedom Society — Ohio Underground Railroad
Preserving the historic sites is an important aspect of the Friends of Freedom
Society in Ohio. Based on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual Most
Endangered Historic Places listing, the Friends of Freedom Society lists
endangered Underground Railroad sites in Ohio. Along with preservation, the
organization believes in education and provides a list of books, links, and
activities to use in the classroom.
History Channel Underground Railroad
The History Channel is a good starting point for information about the beginnings,
people, and places ofthe Underground Railroad. Biographies accompanied by photographs
describe seven prominent figures in the movement. To better understand the
reality versus the myth of the Underground Railroad, a series of primary source
documents are presented along with a teacher's guide for discussion. Rounding
out the site is a section on slavery in America covering the Abolitionist Movement,
the Civil War, the Dred Scott Case, Fugitive Slave Law, and Uncle Tom's
Kentucky's Underground Railroad
Read about the origination of the term Underground Railroad. Compare the timelines
outlining major events in Kentucky and American history that contributed to
the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, making slavery illegal and
extending civil rights to former slaves. Then, view the documentary Kentucky's
Underground Railroad—Passage to Freedom using RealPlayer. Each segment features
a topic and summary. This is a great resource.
National Geographic Underground Railroad
National Geographic has created an excellent interactive trip on the Underground
Railroad. Highlights include listening to "Steal Away" and meeting people associated
with the Underground Railroad and the Abolitionist movement.
National Underground Railroad Network
The National Park Service is implementing a national Underground Railroad
program to coordinate preservation and education efforts nationwide and to
integrate local historical places, museums, and interpretive programs associated
with the Underground Railroad into a mosaic of community, regional, and national
stories. The site includes a database of historic sites and programs by states.
Each is categorized by state and contains a brief description. On the main
page are links to regional stories about the Underground Railroad.
On the Underground Railroad
Through a combination of rap, gospel music, and visuals, a brief history of
the Underground Railroad is presented. The story begins in 1831 with the escape
of Tice Davids, a Kentucky slave, who swims across the Ohio River to freedom.
Additional verses cover Uncle Tom's Cabin, John Brown, Harriett Tubman,
the Fugitive Slave Law, and the Dred Scott case. A teacher's guide that includes
a chronology, vocabulary, and activities accompanies the music video.
Our Virtual Underground Railroad Quilt
Students at Greenway Elementary School in Beaverton, Oregon, created a quilt
to tell the story of the Underground Railroad. It is a wonderful mosaic of
pictures that link to specific topics such as escape routes, ways to escape,
and code words. Each section includes a bibliography and links to related sites.
PERSONAL NARRATIVES AND PRIMARY SOURCES
Harriet Tubman from America's Library
Harriet Tubman was not only a conductor on the Underground Railroad, but a
spy for the Union army during the Civil War. The Library of Congress has gathered
together primary source material to supplement the narrative about her adventures.
This is a great starting point for factual information.
Henry Box Brown
Students will be fascinated by the story of Henry Box Brown, who mailed himself
to freedom. He traveled 350 miles from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. For 27 hours he was enclosed in a box 3-feet long and 2-1/2-feet
deep. His experience was made famous by his narrative, published in 1851.
Influence of Prominent Abolitionists
Illustrations, documents, and broadsides illuminate the influence of the Abolitionists
during the 19th century in American history. Featured are publications from
the Anti-Slavery Convention, the Anti-Slavery Almanac for 1840, the North
Star, Two Speeches by Frederick Douglass, and Make the Slave's
Case Our Own by Susan B. Anthony; illustrations of the Anti-Slavery Meeting
on the Boston Common, and title card for Uncle Tom's Cabin; and a broadside
of Anthony Burns, who was arrested and tried under the Fugitive Slave Act of
William Lloyd Garrison
Garrison was an outspoken Abolitionist who expressed his opinions through The
Liberator, an anti-slavery publication he began in 1831. You will find
a brief biography, a letter from Harriett Beecher Stowe to Garrison, and
his famous editorial, "To the Public," which appeared in the first issue
of the newspaper.
William Still is sometimes called the Father of the Underground Railroad.
He was an ardent abolitionist and the first African American to join the Pennsylvania
Abolition Society. His home was one of the busiest stations on the Underground
Railroad, affording him the opportunity to interview many of the fugitives.
In 1879, Still published The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts, Authentic
Narratives, Letters, etc. This was one of the first major works about the
Underground Railroad and contained many firsthand accounts. The full text of
the book is available along with 70 illustrations.
Explanation of Follow the Drinking Gourd
"Follow the Drinking Gourd" is a song filled with coded references. At this
NASA site, the verses are deciphered and explanations are given as to the meanings
behind the song.
Follow the Drinking Gourd
Sing along to the tune of the "Drinking Gourd" at this folk music site. Background
information attributes the spread ofthe song to an itinerant carpenter, Peg
Leg Joe, who traveled throughout the South, passing the tune to slaves.
Steal Away: Songs of the Underground Railroad
If you are looking for a commercial source for songs, visit this site. You
can listen to samples in either real audio or wave files. Kim and Reggie Harris,
contemporary artists, present these songs "to honor the tradition and spirit
of the music through the prism of their own musical experience and evolution."Descriptions
about the songs give insight into the dual meanings many of them had during
that era. Some of the songs included in the collection are "Oh Freedom," "Deep
River," and "Go Down Moses."
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
This lesson focuses on the book Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by
Deborah Hopkinson with illustrations by James Ransome. Students learn about
the geographic concepts needed to examine culture and the processes needed
to be a good citizen in American society. Many engaging activities will inspire
students to problem solve and think in a critical way.
Underground Railroad: Stairway to Freedom
In this WebQuest, students become part of a newspaper staff and take on the
roles of editor, news reporter, feature reporter, and graphic specialist. Using
a variety of sources such as books, videos, and the Web, they create either
a newscast or a newspaper on how slaves used the Underground Railroad to escape
Underground Railroad Quilt
Click on the images in this quilt to uncover their hidden meanings. Barbara
Payne designed this interactive activity to teach children about the secret
codes used on the Underground Railroad. She is featured in the book A Communion
of Spirit: African American Quilters, Preservers and their Stories and
is a member of the National Women of Color Quilting Network.
Have students locate Underground Railroad stations and their locations. Plot
them on a map and see if any patterns emerge. Research and analyze first-person
accounts. Have students write about what they believe were the major hardships
while traveling on the Underground Railroad. What would they have done if they
were in the same situation? Or make an Underground Railroad quilt. No matter
what activities you choose, your students will have a new appreciation for
the Underground Railroad and its impact on American history.
Be sure to visit the MultiMedia Schools home page [http://www.infotoday.com/MMSchools]
with active links to all of the Web sites mentioned in this article. Then fly
over to CyberBee [http://www.cyberbee.com] for
more curriculum ideas, research tools, and activities to use with your students
Linda Joseph is the author of Net Curriculum: An Educator's Guide
to Using the Internet, published by CyberAge Books. The recipient of numerous
awards, in addition to her work in the Columbus Public Schools and the Library
of Congress, Linda is a part-time instructor for Ohio State University. Communications
to the author may be addressed to her at Columbus Public Schools, 737 East Hudson
Street, Columbus, OH 43211; 614/365-5277; email@example.com.