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for Grade 8






Dear Teacher,

The Underground Railroad task asks students to assume roles as textbook authors who have been hired to write about the history of the Underground Railroad in the Delmarva region. The task is accompanied by a series of activities which are designed to prepare students for the writing task. The activities may be done as a whole or, for the sake of time, you may wish to have your students work only on selected activities which meet your particular needs. You do not have to complete all of the activities.

You should also note that the activities do not have to be completed in a specific order. Although their arrangement suits a specific purpose, you may wish to consider alternatives. For instance, some teachers who have attended Frameworks Commission workshops suggested that Activities 3 and 8 ("Timeline" and "Mental Map") should be presented first. Indeed, this makes sense.

This curriculum packet also contains enrichment activities which focus on the language arts standards. These activities are also optional. The language arts activities and editorial work was completed by a team of teachers headed by Betty Manion of Lewes Middle School and including Ruthann Phillips and Maryellen Taylor of Sussex Tech.

There are a number of options you have in deciding when to involve students in this task. You may want to create a thematic unit (e.g. "Conflict and Cooperation") or incorporate it into the chronology of American history. If you take the chronological approach, it is probably best to start the task after you have covered the Compromise of 1850 but before you start the Civil War.

It is up to you to decide whether or not the activities will be graded separately from the task. The rubric for this particular task was designed solely for the "historical account" which students compose upon completion of the activities. However, you may find that some of the scoring points in the rubric apply nicely to the activities as well.

It is also up to you to decide whether you wish to have the students work individually or in groups to complete the activities. You may want to put them in groups for the more challenging activities and have them work individually on those which you consider to be less challenging.

The time required to complete the task and all of the activities is approximately 2-3 weeks. To ensure completion within this time period, you may want to assign some of the activities for homework. It is up to you to decide how you will approach the activities. Classrooms function best when you work within the framework of your own teaching styles. Feel free to adapt the materials as you wish.

In an attempt to prevent students from feeling overwhelmed at the outset of the task, I strongly recommend that you distribute the activities one at a time. Experience has shown that if you distribute the entire packet in the beginning, students may develop a sense of shock. Students should pick up subsequent activities after they have completed previously assigned work.
Pre-Activity Instruction

In order to complete the activities, students will have to have a certain base of knowledge and skills which you will need to cover. The instruction which precedes the activities should include:

1. a general overview of the history of slavery in the United States up to the 1830s.

2. how to construct a timeline.

3. the location of free and slave states in 1860.

4. how to construct a pie, line and bar graph and when each type should be used.

5. an understanding of the nature of primary versus secondary sources and the value of each.

6. an understanding of cause & effect relationships, how things change over time and the importance of maintaining balance in writing history.

Materials Needed

The list of materials which will be needed as students work on the activities and task includes:

pencil or pen

colored pencils

graph paper

a ruler

a dictionary

a pair of scissors


file folders (optional)

Since the students will be asked to design a two page lay-out of the history of the Underground Railroad, you will also have to decide what students will use to lay-out their histories. One suggestion is to have the students use file folders which can be opened up to give a booklike appearance.

This task offers students the opportunity to be the authors of history rather than the readers of it. It is hoped that this active and authentic approach to the study of history will make it both memorable and enjoyable for your students. I hope that you will find it to be a valuable tool in your efforts to have your students meet the new standards.

Fran O'Malley
Task Developer

Brandywine School District

Talley Middle School
Underground Railroad

Writing History: Delmarva's Underground Railroad
STudent task

The task of writing the story of the history of the United States involves many challenges. The historian must sort through all of the evidence which has been handed down from the past; however, sometimes there is little or no evidence. On other occasions, there is a lot of evidence which often varies in terms of its quality.

In this activity you will be asked to play the role of a historian who has been assigned the task of writing about the Underground Railroad. You will be competing with other student-historians who have been assigned the same task. A textbook publisher wants to include one of your accounts in the latest edition of a United States history textbook that will be used in middle schools throughout the country.

You will be given an activity book which contains a variety of sources including maps, pictures, statistics, reproductions of posters, and primary sources, pieces of evidence which date back to the time period during which a historical event occurred. The first step in completing your task is to analyze the information which is contained in your activity book. The pieces of evidence will help you compile the story of the Underground Railroad.

As you develop your story of the Underground Railroad in the Mid-Atlantic region, an area which includes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, it is important to keep in mind that the textbook publisher established several guidelines that you must follow very closely.
Publication Requirements:
1) Present the important facts in an accurate and logical manner. Select the facts which seem most important to you, but be certain to include in your own way the answers to these questions:
• What was the nature of slavery in the United States before the Civil War?

• How did the slaves feel about slavery? What actions and/ or reactions do we know about that help us understand their feelings?

• How did laws about slavery change over time from its beginnings until the Civil War period? Include a timeline or chronological description.

• What was the Underground Railroad? How did it operate on Delmarva? What routes were used most often? Who was involved and what risks did they encounter?

2) Support your history with evidence. You may select excerpts from documents from the Activity Packet or bring in additional sources you have located through your own research. Your history must include a minimum of two documents carefully chosen to support the points you have made in your history.
3) Define and explain key terms in a way that is accurate but understandable for the 8th grade reader.
4) Explain how historians know what happened in the past. What methods do historians use to evaluate evidence and decide if stories about the past are accurate. Give an example.

5) Write your history in 750 words, using proper and imaginative communication skills. Present your history in an organized and attractive two-page lay-out. Write your history in a lively and creative way, and edit carefully for spelling, punctuation and correct usage.

Now, begin your work by analyzing the sources in your activity book which is divided into several sections. Each focuses on a particular aspect of the Underground Railroad. Answer the questions accompanying each set of sources. Remember...your ultimate task is to write a textbook account of the Underground Railroad. The success of your work depends upon the degree to which you analyze and understand the documents.

Activity 1
slaves' attitudes toward slavery
DIRECTIONS: In this activity try to develop an understanding of how some slaves felt about slavery. In the documents below, former slaves and those who interviewed them describe the slaves' experiences. After reading the documents, write several sentences which capture the slaves' attitudes.

Document 1-1
The following account tells about a man who was brought to America as a slave.

"...the man had not taken his food and refused taking any. Mild means were then used to divert him from his resolution, as well as promises that he should have anything he wished for; but he still refused to eat. They then whipped him with the *cat, but this also was ineffectual. He always kept his teeth so fast that it was impossible to get anything down...In this state he was four or five days, when he was brought up as dead to be thrown overboard; but Mr. Wilson, finding life still existing, repeated his endeavours though in vain, and two days afterwards he was brought up again in the same state as before. He then seemed to wish to get up. The crew assisted him and brought him aft to the fireplace, when in a feeble voice in his own tongue he asked for water, which was given him. Upon this they began to have hopes of dissuading him from his design, but he again shut his teeth as fast as ever, and resolved to die, and on the ninth day from his first refusal he died (Lester 26-27)."

* a whip with nine lashes
Document 1-2
The following statement comes from Father Henson's Story of His Own Life by Josiah Henson.

"Slavery did its best to make me wretched...(115)"

Document 1-3
Seven years before the Civil War erupted, Solomon Northrup's book entitled Twelve Years a Slave stated the following:
"They are deceived who flatter themselves that the ignorant and debased slave has no conception of the magnitude of his wrongs. They are deceived who imagine that he arises from his knees with back lacerated and bleeding, cherishing only a spirit of meekness and forgiveness. A day may come - it will come, if his prayer is heard - a terrible day of vengeance, when the master in his turn will cry in vain for mercy (129)."
Document 1-4
The following passage is taken from Mr. William Still's book entitled The Underground Railroad. Mr. Still was a free black man in Philadelphia who helped slaves escape when they arrived in his city. Still interviewed the escaping slaves with whom he came in contact and published his accounts in 1872.

Henry Gorham passed through Wilmington, Delaware, on his way to Philadelphia.

"Henry Gorham was thirty-four years of age...He admitted that he had never felt the lash on his back, but, nevertheless, he had felt deeply on the subject of slavery. For years the chief concern with him was as to how he could safely reach a free state. Slavery he hated with a perfect hatred. To die in the woods, live in a cave, or sacrifice himself in some way, he was bound to do rather than remain a slave...Accordingly, he left and went to the woods; there he prepared himself a cave and resolved to live and die in it rather than return to bondage. Before he found his way out of the prison-house eleven months elapsed.

No rhetoric or fine scholarship was needed in his case to make his story interesting. None but hearts of stone could have listened without emotion (395)."


Now that you have reviewed the documents, write several sentences explaining how slaves felt about slavery. Use quotations from the documents to support your description. Record your answer on your own paper.
activity 2
some ways that slaves

responded to slavery
DIRECTIONS: Slaves responded to slavery in a variety of ways. Historians look at information provided to them by former slaves and those who witnessed slavery firsthand. In this activity, read the following documents and create a list of ways slaves reacted to their condition.

Document 2-1

One southern doctor, Dr. Samuel W. Cartwright of the University of Louisiana, thought that there might be unique disorders suffered by slaves. He wrote an essay naming the discorders and their symptoms. The disorder which he describes below was called "Dyaesthesia Aethiopica."

Read the document below to find answers to these questions:
A. Do any of the "symptoms" suggest an intentional way in which slaves coped with slavery?

B. What do you think about Doctor Cartwright's description of slaves?

C. How do Doctor Cartwright's opinions compare or contrast with those of the overseer?
"From the careless movements of the individuals affected with this complaint, they are apt to do much mischief, which appears as if intentional, but is mostly owing to the stupidness of mind and insensibility of the nerves induced by the disease. Thus they break, waste, and destroy everything they handle: abuse horses and cattle, tear, burn, or rend their own clothing...They wander about at night, and keep in a half-nodding state by day. They slight their work - cut up corn, cane, cotton, and tobacco, when hoeing it...They raise disturbances with their overseers...When driven to labor by the compulsive power of the white man, he performs the task assigned to him in a headlong, careless manner, treading down with his feet or cutting with his hoe the plants he is put to cultivate; breaking the tools he works with, and spoiling everything he touches that can be injured by careless handling. Hence the overseers call it "rascality," supposing that the mischief is intentionally done." (Current 99)
Document 2-2

As you read Document 2-2, ask yourself how some female slaves coped with their lives.

"The women on a plantation," said one extensive Virginian slave owner to me, "will hardly earn their salt, after they come to breeding age: they don't come to the field and you go to the quarters and ask the old nurse what's the matter and she says, 'Oh, she's not well, Master; she's not fit to work, sir'; and what can you do? You have to take her word for it that something or other is the matter with her; and you dare not set her to work; and so she lays up till she feels like taking the air again, and plays the lady at your expense (100)."
Document 2-3

As you read Document 2-3, ask yourself these questions:

A. Were Nat Turner's actions justifiable?

B. Why didn't other slaves follow his example?

Considerable evidence reveals that some slaves and free blacks plotted to use violence to overthrow the slaveowners. Most of the time, however, others revealed the plans before the rebellions occurred.

In 1831 a Virginia slave named Nat Turner led a rebellion against those connected with slavery. After he was captured, Nat Turner told his story to a white man who later printed it in a document entitled The Confessions of Nat Turner. The author begins by stating the following:

"The late insurrection in Southampton has greatly excited the public mind, and led to a thousand idle, exaggerated and mischievous reports. It is the first instance in our history of an open rebellion of the slaves, and attended with such atrocious circumstances of cruelty and destruction, as could not fail to leave a deep impression, not only upon the minds of the community where this fearful tragedy was wrought, but throughout every portion of our country...

It will thus appear, that whilst every thing upon the surface of society wore a calm and peaceful aspect...a gloomy fanatic was revolving in the recesses of his own dark, bewildered, and overwrought mind, schemes of indiscriminate massacre to the whites..." (Current, Garraty and Weinberg 335-344)

After Nat Turner's unsuccessful attempt to escape, he recalls:

"...each individual (involved in the uprising) sought his own safety either in concealment, or by returning home, with the hope that his participation might escape detection, and all were shot down in the course of a few days, or captured and brought to trial and punishment (executed). Nat has survived all his followers, and the gallows will speedily close his career." (Current et al 335-344)
The author then describes what Nat Turner tells him about the murders. Nat Turner and his followers eventually kill fifty-five white people in a manner much like this one:

"...on that night...we had armed and equipped ourselves, and gathered sufficient force, neither age nor sex was to be spared, (which was invariably adhered to)

...we determined to enter the house secretly, and murder them whilst sleeping...armed with a hatchet, and accompanied by Will, I entered my master's chamber, it being dark. I could not give a death blow, hatchet glanced from his head, he sprang from the bed and called his wife, it was his last word. Will laid him dead, with a blow of his axe, and Mrs. Travis shared the same fate, as she lay in bed. The murder of this family, five in number, was the work of a moment, not one of them awoke; there was a little infant sleeping in a cradle, that was forgotten, until we had left the house and gone some distance. When Henry and Will returned and killed it...(335-344)."
Document 2-4

After interviewing Harriet Tubman a number of times, Sarah Bradford published the classic biography of Harriet Tubman in 1886. In her book entitled Harriet Tubman: Moses of Her People, Bradford describes how Tubman responded to slavery.

"No one knew how it had come out, but some one had heard that Harriet and two of her brothers were very soon, perhaps to-day, perhaps to-morrow, to be sent far South with a gang, bought up for plantation work. Harriet was about twenty or twenty-five years old at this time, and the constantly recurring idea of escape at some time, took sudden form that day. And with her usual promptitude of action she was ready to start at once...

And so, with only the North Star for her guide, our heroine started on the way to liberty. "For", said she, "I had reasoned dis out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one. I would have de oder; for no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when de time came for me to go, de Lorde would let dem take me..."

After many long and weary days of travel, she found that she had passed the magic line, which then divided the land of bondage from the land of freedom...

"I looked at my heands." she said, "to see if I was de same person now I was free. Dere was such a glory ober oberything, de sun came like gold trou de trees, and ober de fields, and I felt like I was in heaven" (Bradford 26-30).


Part 1 - Using the documents from Activity 2, list the ways slaves responded to their lives.
Part 2 - Answer these questions. Which of the slaves' reactions were most likely to have occurred on a frequent basis? Why? Which of the responses would have occurred infrequently? Why?

Activity 3
A Time Line of Slavery in the United States

DIRECTIONS: A time line, very important to the historian, may reflect the causes and effects of events or may illustrate how conditions change over time.
In this phase of your assignment, work with a small group of your peers to create a time line, using symbols or cartoons to illustrate the order of events listed below:


American Anti-Slavery Society was founded


Harriet Tubman escaped


African-American laborers were brought involuntarily to Jamestown


Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, was added to the Constitution


Nat Turner's Rebellion occurred


Civil War began


Compromise of 1850, which contained the third national fugitive slave law, passed


Uncle Tom's Cabin was published


Missouri Compromise prohibited slavery in Louisiana above the 36'30' line


Trial of Thomas Garrett and John Hunn occurred


Congress passed law abolishing the foreign slave trade


U.S. Constitution was written - contained first national fugitive slave law


Pennsylvania passed a law calling for the gradual abolition of slavery


New Jersey became the last state north of the Mason-Dixon line to abolish slavery gradually


Kansas-Nebraska Act opened the Louisiana Territory to the possibility of slavery


Congress passed the nation's second fugitive slave law


Dred Scott Decision determined that slaves were not free simply because they lived in free states


First railroad line, the Baltimore and Ohio, began operating in the United States

activity 4
how the underground railroad may

have gotten its name
DIRECTIONS: In this activity, read to discover how the Underground Railroad got its name. In his book Station Master on the Underground Railroad: The Life and Letters of Thomas Garrett, James McGowan describes the theories of two prominent researchers. Read the theories, and draw your own conclusions.
Theory 1
"In the early part of this concerted management slaves were hunted and tracked as far as Columbia. There the pursuers lost all trace of them. The most scrutinizing inquiries, the most vigorous search, failed to deduce any knowledge of them. Their pursuers seemed to have reached an abyss, beyond which they could not see, the depth of which they could not fathom, and in their bewilderment and discomfiture they declared there must be an underground railroad somewhere. This gave origin to the term by which this secret passage from bondage to freedom was designated ever after." (McGowan 4)
Theory 2
In his book entitled The Underground Railroad, From Slavery to Freedom, historian Wilbur H. Siebert challenges Smedley's theory by arguing that railroads were virtually unknown in the United States during the 1830's.
"In the year 1831, a fugitive named Tice Davids came over the line and lived just back of Sandusky. He had come direct from Ripley, Ohio, where he crossed the Ohio River...
When he was running away, his master, a Kentuckian, was in close pursuit and pressing him so hard that when the Ohio River was reached he had no alternative but to jump in and swim across. It took his master some time to secure a skiff, in which he and his aid followed the swimming fugitive, keeping him in sight until he had landed. Once on shore, however, the master could not find him; and after a 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." The story was repeated with a good deal of amusement, and this incident gave the name to the line. First the "Underground Road," afterwards "Underground Railroad." (McGowan 4)
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