Underground Railroad

By Rona Shaw on Jan 11, 2014

This lesson is part of a unit on the Civil War.


  • Students will verbally tell what the Underground Railroad was and how it was used
  • Students will identify how the Underground Railroad was not always secretive and passive
  • Students will analyze primary sources

The activity will also help students:

  • Identify and use primary sources
  • Define 'slave'
  • Describe basic information about Civil War 


This lesson was adapted from a submission by Demi Thomas, Teaneck Community Charter School; Teaneck, NJ


  • Copies of ads for runaway slaves, scanned into computer for student who is visually impaired
  • Journals
  • Video Quest/computer
  • Availability of braille, computer with screen reading software, iPad, large print, audio as needed



  1. listen to a short quest about the Underground Railroad
  2. form small groups to discuss what they learned from the video
  3. use prior knowledge (excerpts form Book 5 History of US)
  4. review ads for runaway slaves
  5. discuss whether is was worth the risk to run away; would they run away or would they stay in the South and continue being a slave
  6. return to their seats to write a short essay with the following prompt: Pretend you are escaping to the North. Write notes on your feelings during your first night of freedom while traveling. Include the following: What do you hope for? What are you afraid of? What questions do you have? Write notes in your journal


  • Students who are visually impaired can view the ads electronically
  • Provide video description as needed for the student who is visually impaired when listening to the video 
  • Students who are visually impaired use braillewriter, computer, notetaker, or iPad to write assigned essay

underground railroad collage