February 1, 2016

Ride the Underground Railroad

February is Black History Month, a reminder to reflect upon on how we teach young people about the history and contributions of African Americans throughout the entire year. 
    Stories are a terrific way to engage elementary students in history. Don't we all feel like we've experienced lives other than our own because of books we've read? The Underground Railroad is often a gateway for teaching younger kids about the history of slavery in America. Its positive themes of surmounting obstacles and people working together are something of an antidote to our nation's disturbing legacy of legal slavery based on race.

  There is also rich primary source material related to the Underground Railroad. The so-called autobiographical genre of "Slave Narratives" popular in the 1800s has left us many first-hand accounts of daring deeds and exciting escapes by those fleeing slavery as well as the life of bondage they so desperately fled. Excerpts from these true stories of enslaved African Americans is the framework around which my book The Underground Railroad for Kids: From Slavery to Freedom with 21 Activities was written. Some of these true tales can also be found in the much shorter book for younger students. Which Way to Freedom? And Other Stories About the Underground Railroad.
   Interested in using (or having your students use) primary source material from published "Slave Narratives" in the classroom? I've put together a resource list which you are welcome to download and use at this link: SlaveNarratives
   For younger kids, here's the music and lyrics to the famous "Follow the Drinking Gourd" song that helped runaways find their way North.

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