Diana Bantel, Elaine Rehm, Andrea
Roberts and Tina Weinraub
In the years before the Civil War, slavery
for Black Americans was accepted as
normal. There were many people, both
black and white, who knew how wrong
slavery really was. Although many enslaved
people tried to escape from slavery and
were successful, most chose not to run
away. They stayed and suffered in silence.
You are sixteen years old. The year is
1856. You are one of the lucky ones.
You have managed to escape to
freedom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
via the Underground Railroad.
Unfortunately, you had to leave your
mother, father, and two little
brothers behind in Georgia. You
desperately want them to join you in
Your task is to design a plan for their escape and
travel to Philadelphia. The plan will be disguised in
a quilt sent to your mother as a birthday gift.
Shown in the squares of the quilt will be their
escape route and the identity of individuals to
assist them with their trip. You will need to
decide what symbols you can put onto the quilt to
either guide them along or help them avoid the
many dangers on the way. Your goal is that your
family will be able to follow your plan and join you
To be able to design a quilt, your first step is to
become familiar with the Underground Railroad and
its connection to quilting. We will begin by reading and
discussing the story, Sweet Clara and the Freedom
Quilt, as a class.
To help you understand the experiences of runaways,
explore these websites and think about these
questions. Why did the Underground Railroad
develop? What were the major accomplishments of
the Underground Railroad?
Addy’s Escape to Freedom
"The Underground Railroad" - National
The Underground Railroad
For additional information you maywant to read the books on this list.
Ask your librarian to help you find these and other books.
Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
If You Traveledon the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
Escape from Slavery: Five Jouneys to Freedom by Doreen Rappaport
Aunt Harriet's UndergroundRailroad in the Sky by Faith Ringgold
Freedom River by Doreen Rappaport
Almost to Freedom by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
The Secret to Freedomby Marcia K. Vaughan
Cobblestone Magazine/February 2003
You will work in groups of four to plan an escape for your
family from Georgia north to freedom in Philadelphia. Each
person will research a different part of the escape plan,
then you will meet as a group, share what you have learned,
and construct the escape. Since you will display the plan on a
quilt, you will have to persuade your teammates to see the
wisdom of your choice of what should be on the quilt. It will
be your group’s task to show on the quilt the most
appropriate route, the best “agents” to help in the escape,
dangers to avoid along the way, and symbols and codes that
may assist in the escape. You will present your quilt to the
class and explain the reasons for each of your choices.
Plans the route, keeping in mind the terrain,
weather, and distance. Assemble this information
in bullet form on the data collection chart, then
draw the route on a United States map, showing
through which states the family will travel. You
will need to print a copy of the U. S. map by
clicking on the following link. Label the states
involved in your route.
Use this chart to record your information.
Geographer's Data Chart #1421495
Geographer’s Research Websites
Routes to Freedom
Safe Passage Symbols of Freedom
Map of U. S. with URR Routes
Aboard the Underground Railroad: Map of
Aboard the Underground Railroad
Research “conductors”, “agents” or other people
along the way who can help. You will need to find out
the role they played in the Underground Railroad
movement, where they can be located, and how they
can help your family in the escape. Use the data
collection chart to record your notes in bullet form.
Biographer's Data Collection Chart #1421509
Biographer’s Research Websites
Faces of Freedom
Whispers of Angels
Levi Coffin: President of the Underground
National Underground Railroad Freedom
Research symbols to be included on the quilt that will
keep the family on the right track to freedom. On a
data collection chart, tell what the symbols were,
what they stood for and how they were used.
Symbologist's Data Collection Chart #1421504
Symbologist’s Research Websites
Did Quilts Hold Codes to the Underground Railroad?
The Language of Quilts
Underground Railroad Quilts—Secret Codes
Underground Railroad Quilts and Abolitionist Fairs
Symbols of Slavery
Follow the Drinking Gourd
The Scout alerts the passengers to possible
dangers along the route. On a data collection
chart, list the possible dangers, why they are
dangers, and how you could avoid them.
Scout's Data Collection Chart #1421493
Scout’s Research Websites
Whispers of Angels
(Scroll to treacherous terrain and lifesaving waterways)
Secrets and Lies
Symbols of Slavery
Follow the Drinking Gourd
The History Channel—Black History Month
Meet as a group. Share the information you have
found and as a group construct an escape plan
including agents to help you, symbols, map with route,
and dangers to be avoided. Decide which symbols, if
placed on your quilt, would have the best chance of
helping your family to safe passage to freedom. Each
person in your group will draw and color their square
of the quilt on an 18 x 24 “ piece of construction
paper. Tape the four sections together and make a
border around your quilt.
Present your quilt and its meaning to the
class as an oral report. Use the information
on your data collection chart to prepare your
script. Each member of the group will speak
about the square they researched and drew
and how it fits into the escape plan.
Use this rubric to see how you will be graded.
Evaluation Rubric #1423456
Congratulations! Your mission was successful. You
were able to help your family escape from slavery.
They are now safe and able to enjoy freedom.
While you were planning a journey and depicting
that journey on a quilt, you were also developing
and strengthening skills: locating information,
comprehending data, and selecting appropriate
details in order to complete your task. You learned
the value of teamwork and the benefits of
listening and sharing with your classmates and the
satisfaction of accomplishment.
Slavery is a horrible condition and helping
people to get out of slavery not only makes
their life better, but also improves our
world by eliminating a terrible injustice.
Slavery still exists today. If you would like
to find out more about slavery in the 21st.
century and what you can do about it, look
at the following websites:
21st Century Slaves Map
Online Extra - How We Can End Slavery
Students pretend they are an escaping slave who wants to find the best
route to freedom. They take the roles of biographer, geographer,
symbologist and scout and work together to compile facts and create a
quilt with symbols that will direct them to freedom.
Audience: Grades 3-6
PA Standards Addressed :
8.1 Historical Analysis and Skills Development
8.1.3B, 8.1.3D 8.1.6A, 8.1.6B,8.1.6C, 8.1.6D
8.3 United States History
8.3.3A, 8.3.3B, 8.3.3C, 8.3.3D, 8.3.6A, 8.3.6B, 8.3.6C, 8.3.6D