Lesson Plans

The lesson plans below are catered to specific sites or states, but can still illustrate the experience of the Underground Railroad and teach valuable lessons. These plans can also be presented and taught as written, or can serve as a starting point to stimulate more ideas and conversations for the classroom.

Delaware Public Archives

The state of Delaware provides lesson plans for 4th and 5th grade, Teaching Delaware History with Primary Sources including: The Abolitionist Movement and The Underground Railroad, as well as high school, Looking Back: A Primary Source Education Kit for Delaware High Schools which reviews larger historical themes. Each lesson plan contains procedures for the lesson, transcriptions of primary documents used and background information to supplement the lesson.

Fort Donelson National Battlefield

The lesson plan, The Underground Railroad at Fort Donelson, helps primary school students recognize the meaning of the Underground Railroad, the significance of codes and signals used by freedom seekers and conductors on the Underground Railroad, as well as gives students familiarity with key individuals and groups who helped freedom seekers escape via the Underground Railroad.

Fort Pulaski National Monument

What was once a Confederate held fort, Union forces captured Fort Pulaski in Savannah, GA, freeing hundreds of African Americans. The Fort would eventually become a site of some of the nation's fist colored troops. The War for Freedom unit gives students closer insight to the day-to-day lives of African Americans from enslavement to emancipation.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

A famous leader of the abolition movement and having escaped slavery himself, Frederick Douglass has important history and significance to the Underground Railroad. Douglass' Historic Site provides lesson plans, teacher workshops and distance learning opportunities for the classroom to learn more about his life from slave to statesman.

From Hampton to New Bedford: A Network to Freedom

Aimed at students in 5th grade, these web based lesson plans tell the compelling story of the Underground Railroad at Hampton National Historic Site (Maryland) and New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park (Massachusetts). The lesson uses role playing, critical assessment and exploration activities to consider the conditions of bondage and freedom seekers' desire for freedom.

Independence National Historical Park

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Americans began their quest for freedom and independence from Great Britain. This is also the location where George Washington served two terms as the 1st president of the U.S. and signed into law the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. Two slaves in particular, Oney and Hercules, served Washington, but found their way to freedom before Washington completed his second term. Learn Oney Judge's Journey to Freedom, as well as the Routes of the Underground Railroad, Abolitionists and the Underground Railroad, and Leaders and Stories of the Underground Railroad.

In Motion: The African American Migration Experience (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture)

This website is organized around multiple defining migrations that have formed and transformed African Americans and the nation. In particular, The Domestic Slave Trade, The Transatlantic Slave Trade, and Runaway Journeys, all of which relate to the Underground Railroad. Each migration has different lesson plans for multiple grade levels, a glossary, internet resources and source materials to support the lesson.

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Based on the National Register of Historic Places, this lesson brings important stories of historic places into the classroom. It can be used in sectional conflict leading to the Civil War or a variety of civic issues. Students will study the role the Old Courthouse in St. Louis played in national events of the 19th century, including the Dred Scott v. Sandford.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site

This curriculum based education program is used to illustrate the reality of slavery through firsthand accounts by those who endured it. The lesson focuses specifically on Jameson Jenkins, a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Mount Clare

A site that is part of the Network to Freedom, Mount Clare served as a plantation but was also a site of at least four documented instances of freedom seekers escaping. The lesson plan, Freedom Seekers, provides students with an overview of Charles and Margaret Carroll, the plantation owners, and their industrialized plantation, the Mount Clare house, so that students can fully examine and deconstruct the enslaved population and: a) how they lived and worked on the Carroll's estate; and b) the various ways that they negotiated for their freedom.

Murphy Orchards

A program of the Network to Freedom, this farm was established by Charles and Anna Marie McClew in 1850. The house, barn and orchards have remain unchanged for over 150 years. This farm offers an authentic setting for sharing Underground Railroad history and the lesson plan examines the farm's connection as a hiding place for slaves on the Underground Railroad.

Teaching with Historic Places

Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) uses historic places in National Parks and in the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places to enliven history, social studies, geography, civics, and other subjects. The following lesson plans are based on these parks and historic places and relate to the Underground Railroad.

  • Mary Ann Shadd Cary House: Publisher, activist, teacher, and lawyer Mary Ann Shadd Cary was born free in a slave state. She was exceptional, but her migrations between the U.S. and Canada were typical. They are evidence of where African Americans moved in North America during the 19thCentury and her surviving D.C. home is evidence of where and how a woman of her status lived.
  • New Philadelphia, Illinois: New Philadelphia, IL was not a typical pioneer town. It was the first town platted and registered by an African American before the American Civil War. A formerly enslaved man called "Free Frank" McWorter founded New Philadelphia in 1836 as a money-making venture to buy his family out of slavery. New Philadelphia is one of the thousands of locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The Battle of Honey Springs: The Civil War Comes to the Indian Territory: This battle, where Union soldiers trekked through Indian territory, would help to determine whether the Union or the Confederacy would control the West beyond the Mississippi River. Honey Springs Battlefield is one of the thousands of locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Last updated: December 7, 2018