The Drinking Gourd: Compass to Freedom on the Underground Railroad. (CyberBee)

By Joseph, Linda C. | Multimedia Schools, January-February 2003 | Go to article overview
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The Drinking Gourd: Compass to Freedom on the Underground Railroad. (CyberBee)

Joseph, Linda C., Multimedia Schools

"I had reasoned out in my mind; there was one or two things I bad a right to; liberty or death; if I could not bare one, I would bare de oder."

--Harriet Tubman

[Editor's note: URLs mentioned in this article appear in the chart that follows on page 36.]

Enslave a people and they will find a way to escape. As the Underground Railroad developed, a metaphor unfolded that grew into a culture and myth of its own. People were passengers, although they never set foot on a train car; homes were stations, but there were no tracks; conductors led a group of people but never collected tickets. It was a road to freedom that followed the drinking gourd, a code name for the Big Dipper.

When did the Underground Railroad begin? How many people escaped between the American Revolution and the Civil War? What were the code words used on the Underground Railroad, and who were the people who risked their safety for a cause that they believed was just? Let's travel back in time and learn about the Underground Railroad.


Aboard the Underground Railroad

Aboard the Underground Railroad showcases 55 historic places that are listed in the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places. Sketches of the people associated with each home shed light on the historical significance of the abolitionist organizations of the time. A map is included with the most common directions for escape on the Underground Railroad. Individual state maps marking the location of the historic properties make it an easy site to navigate.

Friends of Freedom Society--Ohio Underground Railroad

Preserving the historic sites is an important aspect of the Friends of Freedom Society in Ohio. Based on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual Most Endangered Historic Places listing, the Friends of Freedom Society lists endangered Underground Railroad sites in Ohio. Along with preservation, the organization believes in education and provides a list of books, links, and activities to use in the classroom.

History Channel Underground Railroad

The History Channel is a good starting point for information about the beginnings, people, and places of the Underground Railroad. Biographies accompanied by photographs describe seven prominent figures in the movement. To better understand the reality versus the of the Underground Railroad, a series of primary source documents are presented along with a teacher's guide for discussion. Rounding out the site is a section on slavery in America covering the Abolitionist Movement, the Civil War, the Dred Scott Case, Fugitive Slave Law, and Uncle Tomb Cabin.

Kentucky's Underground Railroad

Read about the origination of the term Underground Railroad. Compare the timelines outlining major events in Kentucky and American history that contributed to the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, making slavery illegal and extending civil rights to former slaves. Then, view the documentary Kentucky's Underground Railroad--Passage to Freedom using RealPlayer. Each segment features a topic and summary. This is a great resource.

National Geographic Underground Railroad

National Geographic has created an excellent interactive trip on the Underground Railroad. Highlights include listening to "Steal Away" and meeting people associated with the Underground Railroad and the Abolitionist movement.

National Underground Railroad Network

The National Park Service is implementing a national Underground Railroad program to coordinate preservation and education efforts nationwide and to integrate local historical places, museums, and interpretive programs associated with the Underground Railroad into a mosaic of community, regional, and national stories. The site includes a database of historic sites and programs by states. Each is categorized by state and contains a brief description.

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