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Internet Lessons for Learning About Slavery the Underground Railroad

Africans in America
This is a phenomenal website that was developed to support the PBS series of the same name. There is a wealth of primary material organized chronologically including documents, biographies, newspaper accounts, etc. It is organized by time period beginning with colonial period (Terrible Transformation), the American Revolution (Revolution), slavery and abolition in the 19th century (Brotherly Love), and then the Civil War (Judgment Day) Standards 5.4.6, 8.6.4, 8.7.2, 8.7.4, 8.8.3, 8.9 all

National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
This National Park Service site explores all aspects of the Underground Railroad, the effort of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom by escaping bondage. Wherever slavery existed, there were efforts to escape, at first to maroon communities in remote or rugged terrain on the edge of settled areas. Their acts of self-emancipation made them "fugitives" according to the laws of the times, though in retrospect "freedom seeker" seems a more accurate description. While most freedom seekers began their journey unaided and many completed their self-emancipation without assistance, each decade in which slavery was legal in the United States saw an increase in active efforts to assist escape. Standards 5.4.6, 8.7.2, 8.9.1, 8.9.3 and 8.9.5

The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record
The thousand images in this collection have been selected from a wide range of sources, most of them dating from the period of slavery. This collection is envisioned as a tool and a resource that can be used by teachers, researchers, students, and the general public - in brief, anyone interested in the experiences of Africans who were enslaved and transported to the Americas and the lives of their descendants in the slave societies of the New World. Standards 5.4.6, 8.7.2, 8.7.3, and 8.7.4

Learn About Slavery
This brief overview of slavery draws distinctions about the different types of slavery that existed in various regions during the colonial period. The site links to five primary sources about slavery from the late 18th to the mid 19th centuries. The Slavery Fact Sheet has an extensive outline of information, a timeline. A Myth/Fact section and much more are also included. Standards 5.4.6 and 8.2.3

Documents in the History of Slavery
Here is a selection of primary source material on 1. the middle passage 2. arrival in the new world 3. conditions of life under slavery 4. childhood in slavery 5. family life 6. religion and beliefs 7. punishment 8. resistance 9. flight and 10. emancipation. Each topic has an introduction and 4 to 10 dated primary sources on that topic. Standards 5.4.6, 8.7.2, 8.7.4, 8.9.1, and 8.9.3

Understanding Slavery
This discovery School site examines the concept and practice of slavery throughout the world. Few human practices have provoked such deep and widespread outrage as the practice of one human being enslaving another. So why has slavery survived for thousands of years? How did it become so important to civilization? Explore the ways that slavery has been woven into the fabric of societies in America and around the world. Standards 5.4.6 and 8.7.3

The African American: A Journey from Slavery to Freedom
The African-American: A Journey from Slavery to Freedom is an exhibit that shows America slavery as an issue in America that was in constant conflict with the founding Democratic principles of this nation. Slavery therefore became the ultimate test of disunity within the union of states that were already at odds in a democracy espousing freedom for its people. Standards 5.4.6, 5.6.7, 5.7.1, 8.7.2, and 8.7.4

The Heroic Slave
This is the full text of Frederick Douglass’ short novel The Heroic Slave. Frederick Douglas' 1852 novella was his response to the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society's request for a submission to be included in their compilation Autographs for Freedom. This work, which represents the author's only attempt at fiction, was heavily influenced by the historical events which surrounded the actual rebellion led by Madison Washington on the slave ship Creole. Standards 5.4.6, 8.7.2, 8.7.3, and 8.7.4

Encyclopedia of Slavery
This Spartacus site has a wealth of information, all cross-linked among the names and topics, for anyone beginning research on a person or event related to slavery. Beginning with 32 slave accounts by people famous and obscure, the site then provides 14 articles on the slave system including the slave trade and life on different types of plantations. Following this are 14 articles on life in enslavement and 24 articles on events and issues from the Amistad Mutiny to Reconstruction. There is a huge list of campaigners against slavery both American and British with biographical information on each. Standards 5.4.6, 8.6.4, 8.7 all, 8.9.1, 8.9.5, 8.10.4, and 8.11 all

Stories from American History on Music Video
On An Underground Railroad with lyrics and music by Kinny Landrum provides a condensed history of the underground railroad in the United States. The song starts with the story of the successful escape of Tice Davids, a Kentucky slave who escaped to freedom in 1831. It goes on to describe how the movement spread, mentioning Uncle Tom's Cabin, the role of Harriet Tubman, and John Brown. The third verse explains how the underground railroad worked, including its terminology. The final verse takes up the subject of the Dred Scott Decision and the Fugitive Slave Law and their influence on the Abolitionist Movement. Through a unique combination of rap verse and gospel chorus, the song reveals the central role the slaves, themselves, played in their emancipation. Standards 8.7.2, 8.9.1, and 8.9.5

Just the Arti-Facts
This Chicago Historical Society page focused on historical artifacts related to 19th century slavery on the topics of Slave Labor, Slave Markets, Rebellion, and the Anti-Slavery Movement. Standard 8.7.2

Pathways to Freedom: Maryland and the Underground Railroad
This site by Maryland Public Television has great information about the Underground Railroad but it is somewhat difficult to access. The section on Eyewitness to History has well edited primary sources from Josiah Henson, James Pennington, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Caroline Diamond, and Charles Ball. Standards 8.7.2, 8.7.4, and 8.9.1

African Slavery in America by Thomas Paine (1774)
Here is the full text of the essay by Paine which was originally published in the Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser on March 8th 1775. Paine was a member of the first anti-slavery society in America which was founded shortly after the writing of this piece. The article describes the practices of African American slavery in the late 1700's and argues against the injustices of them on religious and moral grounds. Note Paine's use of the same arguments that he used to support colonial freedom such as "As these people are not convicted of forfeiting freedom, they have still a natural, perfect right to it..." Standards 8.1.2, 8.9.1, and 11.1.2

Conditions on Tobacco and Cotton Plantations
Charles Ball describes life on a Maryland tobacco plantation and a cotton plantation in Georgia. Though he found "the general conditions of slavery...the same everywhere," he noted real differences in the manner in which slaves were treated. Standard 8.7.2

John Brown Story and Trial
This site has a complete story of John Brown's life, his anti slavery activities including the raid on Harper's Ferry, numerous newspaper accounts and photos, and a description of his trial. Standard 8.9.1

Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture
This rich primary source site from the University of Virginia puts Uncle Tom's Cabin in its context of American history. There are examples of other anti-slavery writings that came before Stowe's book. Then there are Stowe's Prefaces, the whole text of Uncle Tom's Cabin, a comparison among the manuscript, serial and novel forms of the book, and playable songs from the novel. Lastly the site has numerous primary source responses to and reviews of the book from 1852 to 1930. Standards 8.7.3, 8.9.1, and 11.3.1

"Back to Africa" The Colonization Movement
This site provides an overview of the Back to Africa movement that emerged after the American Revolution. Leaders were focused on human rights during the Early Republic and many formerly enslaved had been freed, especially in the North. Many people who opposed slavery, however, did not believe in equality among the races. These people sometimes supported other ideas such as the "Back to Africa" movement. Standard 8.9.0

Abolition Movement 1790's-1850's
This site has primary source documents describing actions to eliminate slavery in the U.S. as early as the 1790's. The introductory narrative by scholars at the Library of Congress helps students put the Abolition Movement into historical context. Standard 8.4.3, 8.6.4, and 8.91

Images Related to Slavery
These pictures provide a record of slavery in America from slave ads to auction scenes. They are original works of authorship, government records, works for which copyright permission has expired, works reprinted with permission, or works that we believe are within the fair use protection of the copyright laws maintained by the History and Cultures Project, Department of History, UC Davis. Standard 8.7.2

John C. Calhoun - Views on Slavery and Government
This speech by John C. Calhoun "Slavery a Positive Good" helps to explain the views of southern states before the Civil War toward the institution of slavery and the danger he believed the U.S. faced through the spread of abolitionist thinking. Standard 8.10.1

Born in Slavery: Slave Narrative from the Federal Writers Project 1936-38
This Library of Congress site is a set of oral histories of people who had been born into or witnessed slavery in their life times. There are pictures of those people interviewed. These narratives are also available at
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/wpa/wpahome.html Standards 8.7.3, 8.9 all, 8.11.2, and 8.11.4

History and Geography of the Underground Railroad
This site by African Genesis describe slavery in the Western Hemisphere and the
origins, organization and operation of the Underground Railroad. The site is readable and well organized. Linking back to part one provides a set of links to excerpted primary source material. Standards 8.9.1, and 8.9.3

Aboard the Underground Railroad:
A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary

Aboard the Underground Railroad: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary describes the slave trade, early slavery, operating the Underground Railroad and the Civil War. It introduces travelers, researchers, historians, preservationists, and anyone interested in African American history to the fascinating people and places associated with the Underground Railroad. Standards 8.7.2, 8.7.3, 8.7.4, and 8.9.1

The Underground Railroad
This History Channel site provides background information on the story of the Underground Railroad, the people and the places involved. It links to the video purchase information and to a wealth of primary sources. Standards 8.7.2, and 8.9.1

Black Resistance to Slavery in the United States
Developed by the Afro-American Black History Museum, this site shows the harshness of slavery and the continuous efforts by the enslaved to fight for their freedom and resist capture. Standards 5.4.6 and 8.7.2

Church in the Southern Black Community
"The Church in the Southern Black Community" traces how Southern African Americans experienced and transformed Protestant Christianity into the central institution of their community life. Coverage begins with white churches conversion efforts, especially in the post-Revolutionary period, and depicts the tensions and contradictions between the egalitarian potential of evangelical Christianity and the realities of slavery. It focuses, through slave narratives and observations by other African American authors, on how the black community adapted evangelical Christianity, making it a metaphor for freedom, community, and personal survival. Standards 8.7.3, 8.7.4, 8.9.1, 8.9.6, and 11.3.1

The Compromise of 1850
By 1850 sectional disagreements centering on slavery were straining the bonds of union between the North and South. This compromise, worked out by Congress after endless debate, was actually a series of bills passed mainly to address issues related to slavery. The bills provided for slavery to be decided by popular sovereignty in the admission of new states, prohibited the slave trade in the District of Columbia, settled a Texas boundary dispute, and established a stricter fugitive slave act. This featured document is Henry Clay's handwritten draft. Standard 8.9.5

North America Map Archive
This site has colorful and clear maps of territorial expansion of the United States 1783-1898 and of slavery through 1860. They are effective for classroom projection. Standard 5.4.6, 5.8.2, 8.4.1, and 8.7.2

U.S. History Maps
This list of clear maps with in-depth annotations provides a summary of American history from colonial to modern times.

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