Lois Fugit

Grade 8 - American History & Literature


          This lesson will be one of a series of lessons on the Underground Railroad culminating with field trips to one or more locations in or near Louisville. As I teach history and literature, the students will be reading related novels, biographies, and autobiographies for literature class. One of the books on their summer reading list is Day of Tears by Julius Lester.

(This plan is written in the format required by our principal, and to finalize it I would add the standards from the Curriculum Framework mandated by the Archdiocese of Louisville Schools.)




Students will demonstrate the ability to:


ü Construct a definition of the Underground Railroad.


ü Understand that the Underground Railroad was a network of abolitionists and blacks who helped fugitives escape from or avoid return to slavery.


ü Describe the impact of slavery, sale, and/or running away on families as seen in factual accounts of individuals.


ü Display insight into the practical day to day operations of the Underground Railroad: costs, transportation, food, etc.


ü Analyze information from primary sources and draw conclusions.










1.     Working in groups of 4-5, each group will examine a different excerpt from William Still’s Underground Railroad using guided reading questions (below).


2.      Define the words that are underlined in the excerpt.


3.     Each group will give a brief synopsis of their findings to the whole class group.


4.     Whole group discussion question: What was the role of the Vigilance Committees/Anti-Slavery Societies?


ASSIGNMENT  In text (The American Nation, Prentice Hall), read “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” pp. 430-431, and be prepared to discuss/write about the Critical Thinking Drawing Inferences question on p. 431.


                            FOR DISCUSSION GROUPS


1.     Aside from the obvious reason of being a slave, what were the specific circumstances that motivated your subject to attempt escape?

Had he/she tried before?

His/her name?

Does he/she keep the slave name or change names after escape?

Year of escape?


2.     Where did your runaway start from?


Did he/she run alone?


3.     What are the details about help from the Underground Railroad?


4.     Were there any repercussions/punishments at the place he/she ran from?


5.     What did your subject do in the years after escape?


Excerpts from Underground Railroad

By William Still

Philadelphia: Porter and Coates, 1872



Group 1The Story of Henry “Box” Brown, pp. 54-59, NEH Course 



    Group 2Story of Peter Still, pp 65-66, NEH Course Book


Group 3“Sam” Nixon Alias Dr. Thomas Bayne, pp. 74-79, NEH

                 Course Book


Group 4Account of Anna Maria Weems, pp. 82-92, NEH Course



Group 5Excerpts from William Still’s Underground Railroad (1872)

                Concerning an Escape in 1857, pp. 98-101, NEH Course







The Carnegie Center for Art & History, New Albany, IN

Ordinary People – Extraordinary Courage

This exhibit’s centerpiece is a virtual trip on the Underground Railroad’s line that passed through the town on the northern bank of the Ohio River across from Louisville, KY. Students will follow the journey of real escapees who passed through New Albany and must make decisions along the way to find out the consequences of the choices they make.



Farmington Plantation, Louisville, KY

Life on a Kentucky Plantation

While this location features several programs on the antebellum life of the wealthy and prosperous Speed family, Life on a Kentucky Plantation strives to debunk the kind master-happy slave myth and describes slave resistance including running away and its consequences.



The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, OH

The Rankin/Parker Tour

This facility, built on the bank of the Ohio River, realistically and in an engaging manner depicts the Underground Railroad as it operated from Kentucky into Ohio. The role of John Rankin and the importance of Ripley, Ohio are highlighted.