lesson plan –  July 16-21 UGRR Landmark Institute – submitted by Robert Rodey


To the teacher:


This lesson plan is actually a DBQ (document-based question) that is set up according to the standards of the AP (Advanced Placement) exam in United States history.  For a complete explanation of how to teach a DBQ, go to www.apcentral.collegeboard.com and navigate to the AP U.S. History exam page.  Even though DBQs are specifically designed for AP students, they are extremely valuable for average high school history students: for them you will need to give them more direct instruction.  In fact, perhaps you may want to “do” the DBQ as a classroom discussion topic.  The directions to students are a direct quotation from the directions to the 2006 AP exam.


To the student:


The following question requires you to construct a coherent essay that integrates your interpretation of Documents A – G and your knowledge of the period referred to in the question.  High scores will be earned only by essays that both cite key pieces of evidence from the documents and draw on outside knowledge of the period.


question: The Underground Railroad is commonly regarded as an informal, disorganized, and secret organization that enabled slaves to escape to freedom.  How does your knowledge of the 1850’s and the following documents challenge these three stereotypes?


Use the documents and your knowledge of the 1850’s in constructing your response.



                                                              Document A


Source: The Fugitive Slave Act, 1850


And be it further enacted, That when a person held to service or labor in any State or Territory of the United States, has heretofore or shall hereafter escape into another State or Territory of the United States, the person or persons to whom such service or labor may be due, or his, her, or their agent or attorney, duly authorized, by power of attorney, in writing, acknowledged and certified under the seal of some legal officer or court of the State or Territory in which the same may be executed, may pursue and reclaim such fugitive person . . .  .      









                                                           Document B


Source: Frederick Douglass’s Paper (Rochester, NY) in 1852, detailing activities of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee in the aftermath of the Christiana Riot of 1851


The Committee have expended the following amount:


Paid to several Council, $200


For board, clothing, Medical Assistance, and passage to Canada of Geo. Williams, Jacob Moore, and their families, $125


Expended for the 25 prisoners during their four months of confinement, $150


Paid to Dr. A. Cain, $30, Joseph Benn, $20, Josiah Clarkson, $10 (to be distributed among the prisoners’ families)


For board & incidental expenses of witnesses during the trials, $95






Amount of receipts, $689.41

Expenses, $630

Balance in hand, $59.41

There are several families not yet cared for.  The committee return thanks to dealers in clothing on Second street, for the contributions so much needed, amounting to some one hundred and twenty-five pieces of clothing.

                                                NATH’L. W. DEPEE, Secretary

                                                February 10, 1852



                                                              Document C


Source: “PENNSYLVANIA FREEMAN” December 9, 1852


Pursuant to the motion published in last week’s “Freeman,” a meeting was held in the Anti-slavery rooms, on the evening of the 2d inst., for the purpose of organizing a Vigilance Committee.


On motion Samuel Nickless was appointed chairman, and William Still secretary.  J.M. McKim then stated at some length, the object of the meeting.  He said, that the friends of the fugitive slave had been for some years past, embarrassed, for the want of a properly constructed active, Vigilance Committee, that the old Committee, which used to render effective service in the field of Anti-slavery labor, had become disorganized and scattered, and that for the last two or three years, the duties of this depart-ment had been performed by individuals on their own responsibility, and sometimes in a very irregular manner; that this has been the cause of much dissatisfaction and complaint, and that the necessity for a remedy of this state of things was generally felt.  Hence, the call for this meeting. 



                                                            Document D


Source: Letter from J. Bigelow, Esq., 1854


WASHINGTON, D.C., June 22d, 1854


MR. WILLIAM STILL: - Sir – I have just received a letter from my friend, Wm. Wright, of York Sulphur Springs, Pa. in which he says, that by writing to you, I may get some information about the transportation of some property from this neighborhood to your city or vicinity. 


A person who signs himself Wm. Penn, lately wrote to Mr. Wright, saying that he would pay $300 to have this service performed.  It is for the conveyance of only one SMALL package; but it has been discovered since, that the removal cannot be so safely effected without taking two larger packages with it.  I understand that the three are to be brought to this city and stored in safety, as soon as the forwarding merchant in Philadelphia shall say he is ready to send on.  The storage, etc. here, will cost a trifle, but the $300 will be promptly paid for the whole service.  I think Mr. Wright’s daughter, Hannah, has also seen you.  I am also known to Prof, C.D. Cleveland, of your city.  If you answer this promptly, you will soon hear from Wm. Penn himself.


Very truly yours, J. BIGELOW



                                                            Document E


Source: “PENNSYLVANIA FREEMAN,” reprinted in the (Toronto) PROVINCIAL FREEMAN in 1854


Fugitives from southern injustice are coming thick and fast.  The underground railroad never before did so large a business as it is doing now.  The Vigilance Committee have their hands full, and all they want is the pecuniary means to meet the demands made upon them.  This is a matter that of course cannot be made the subject of much public remark.

A word to the wise is sufficient.  The members of the Acting Committee are Wm. Still, 31 N. 5th St; N.W. Depee, 334 South St; Jacob C. White, 100 Old York Road, and Passmore Williamson, S.W. corner of Seventh and Arch streets.  Any money placed in the hands of either of these gentlemen, or forwarded to Charles Wise, corner of 5th and Market streets, Treasurer of the Vigilance Committee, will be secure of a faithful and a judicious appropriation.



                                                            Document F


Source: letter from Thomas Garrett to J. Miller McKim


                                    Wilmington, 12 mo., 29th . 1854


Esteemed Friend:

     We made arrangements last night, and sent away Harriet Tubman, with six men and one woman to Allen Agnew’s, to be forwarded across the country to the city.  Harriet, and one of the men had worn their shoes off their feet, and I gave them two dollars to help fit them out, and directed a carriage to be hired at my expense, to take them out, but do not yet know the expense.  I have now two more from the lowest county in Maryland, on the Peninsula, upwards of one hundred miles.  I will try to get one of our trusty colored men to take them to-morrow morning to the Anti-slavery office.  You can pass them on.

                                             THOMAS GARRETT



                                                            Document G


Source: letter from J. Bigelow, Esq.


WASHINGTON, D.C., June 27, 1854


MR. WM. STILL-Dear Sir:-I have to thank you for the prompt answer you had the kindness to give to my note of 22d inst.  Having found a correspondence so quick and easy, and withal so very flattering, I address you again more fully.


The liberal appropriation for transportation has been made chiefly on account of a female child of ten or eleven years old, for whose purchase I have been authorized to offer $700 (refused), and for whose sister I have paid $1,600, and some $1,000 for their mother, &c.


This child sleeps in the same apartment with its master and mistress, which adds to the difficulty of removal.  She is some ten or twelve miles from the city, so that really the chief hazard will be bringing her safely to town, and in secreting her until a few days of storm shall have abated.  All this, I think, is now provided with entire safety.


The child has two cousins in the immediate vicinity; a young man of some twenty-two years of age, and his sister, of perhaps seventeen – both Slaves, but bright and clear-headed as anybody.  The young man I have seen often – the services of both seem indispensable to the main object suggested; but having once rendered the service, they cannot, and ought not return to slavery.  They look for freedom as the reward of what they shall now do.


Out of the $300, cheerfully offered for the whole enterprise, I must pay some reasonable sum for transportation to the city and sustenance while here.  It cannot be much; for the balance, I shall give a draft, which will be promptly paid on their arrival in new York.