Learning about the Underground Railroad can instill a sense of pride and purpose in students. By studying the courage and tenacity of people like Sojourner Truth, Henry ‘Box’ Brown, Harriet Tubman, and Fannie Richards, students will realize that life’s obstacles, no matter how rigid and troubling, can be overcome. The Underground Railroad exemplifies the fact that, in spite of the vitriolic attempts by pro-slavery forces, freedom was sought against the highest of risks.
Because the Underground Railroad was a secret network, primary sources on its activities have been limited, but not inaccessible. Researchers across the United States have used a variety of disparate sources to interpret its history. In Wilbur H. Seibert’s The Underground Railroad: From Slavery to Freedom, for example, he writes about the origin of the name ‘Underground Railroad’. In an account made by the Honorable Rush R. Sloane, the experience of an enslaved freedom seeker fleeing from his owner is described. Seibert states, “once on shore, however, the master could not find him. No one had seen him; and after a long…search the disappointed slave-master went into Ripley, and when inquired of as to what had become of his slave, said…he thought ‘the nigger must have gone off on an underground road.” It is speculated that this story, along with the rise of railroad technology during the antebellum era, are the derivative sources of the name and codes of the Underground Railroad.
These lesson plans are designed to make the study of the Underground Railroad relevant and engaging for youth. The lesson plans are an educational venture into the fascinating history of the Underground Railroad.
Image: The Historic New Orleans Collection, Acc. No. 1975.93.2