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Runaway Journeys Migration Lesson Plan
This lesson is designed for students to use with the narrative Runaway Journeys. Students also will use the site's maps and image resources in rounding out their study of this migration. Appropriate for middle school and high school students, the lesson's goal is to facilitate students' understanding of this migration.
Grade Levels:Middle and high school, grades 9-12
For use with:Runaway Journeys
Concentration Area:History: U.S. Government
National Curriculum Standards met by this lesson
The standards for this lesson conform to those set by the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel).
Students will understand

  • Influences on urban life in the early and late 19th century (e.g., how rapid urbanization, immigration, and industrialization affected the social fabric of cities; individuals who contributed to the development of free black communities in the cities; the rise of racial hostility)
  • Different economic, cultural, and social characteristics of slavery after 1800 (e.g., the influence of the Haitian Revolution and the ending of the Atlantic slave trade, how slaves forged their own culture in the face of oppression, the role of the plantation system in shaping slaveholders and the enslaved, the experiences of escaped slaves)
  • How slavery influenced economic and social elements of southern society (e.g., how slavery hindered the emergence of capitalist institutions and values, the influence of slavery on the development of the middle class, the influence of slave revolts on the lives of slaves and freed slaves)
Time required
Anywhere from two traditional class periods to two weeks, depending on depth and breadth of student research
Materials needed
  • Narrative, Runaway Journeys
  • Internet connection for viewing internal and external links
  • Library resources
Anticipatory Set

  1. Ask students to define the word "Freedom" in a journal entry. Discuss and define as a class the concept of freedom.
  2. Then, ask them to prioritize those freedoms, most important to least.
  3. After students have contemplated their lists for a while, have a brief discussion of those at the tops of every student's list. Then, ask them how they would feel if all of the freedoms on their listing were denied to them.
  4. Have them write their reflections in a journal entry.

  1. Have the map of the migration on the overhead projector or on students' computer screens. (link to map of this migration)
  2. Hand out copies of the narrative; or, if students are online, they can read it on their screens. If the reading level of the class is low, you may opt to read and stop at intervals to check for understanding.
  3. Once the students have read through the narrative, have them start filling in any information that they can based on the following series of springboard questions:

    1. What dates, from beginning to end, frame this migration?
    2. Where is the point (or where are the points) of origin of the people?
    3. What was their existing circumstance in that location? How did conditions differ from the city to country plantations and estates?
    4. Why did they leave?
    5. How many left?
    6. Where did they go?
    7. How did they choose their destination(s)? Were the destinations chosen before they embarked upon their journeys, or were they arbitrary in nature?
    8. What event or circumstance ended this migration?
    9. What is the legacy today of this migration in both the points of origin and destination?
    10. How does this migration fit in with the other migrations (can only be done if studying a group of migrations)? Are there any connections between migrations?
  4. For any unanswered questions, direct students to other resources, such as the gateway, other areas of the site, and library resources.
  5. For further study, have students select and research further into the life and actions of one of the people mentioned in the narrative. They can select a person that either hindered or helped the fugitive migration, or one who successfully gained his or her freedom. Tell students they must have at least two Internet sources and one library source on the person in order to complete their research. Foci of the research should include the following:

    1. The person's background.
    2. Stance on slavery.
    3. Circumstances that motivated them to act.
    4. The person's actions, with as much detail as possible.
    5. The legacy of the actions.
  6. Instruct students to write up their findings in research paper format, including a picture if possible, and a bibliography of sources.

You can grade essays on a 20-point scale (which may be multiplied by five to convert to a 100-point scale or to letter grades) using the following rubric:

Grading Element and Total Possible Points Excellent (10) Good (9-8) Fair (7-6) Not Satisfactory (5-1) No Work (0)
Written Assignment's Historical Comprehension


  1. Excellent historical analysis of information from both narratives
  2. Excellent command of facts
  3. Comparison and contrast of details

  1. Good historical analysis of information from both narratives
  2. Good command of facts
  3. General comparison and contrasts

  1. Fair historical analysis of information from both narratives
  2. Fair command of facts
  3. Little relationship between items compared or contrasted

  1. Little historical analysis of information—may only refer to one narrative
  2. Little command of facts
  3. No relationship between items to be compared and contrasted
No Work
Written Assignment's Technical Writing Skills

Shows excellent:

  1. Compositional structure
  2. Sentence structure and variety
  3. Vocabulary use
  4. Grammar, spelling, punctuation
Shows good:

  1. Compositional structure
  2. Sentence structure and variety
  3. Vocabulary use
  4. Grammar, spelling, punctuation
Shows adequate:

  1. Compositional structure
  2. Sentence structure and variety
  3. Vocabulary use
  4. Grammar, spelling, punctuation
Shows inadequate:

  1. Compositional structure
  2. Sentence structure and variety
  3. Vocabulary use
  4. Grammar, spelling, punctuation
No Work

Related Works

  • Additional narratives, including those mentioned in the narrative are available at this site or at Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries

    • Ball, Charles. Fifty Years in Chains; or, The Life of an American Slave. New York: H. Dayton, Publisher, 1859. 3-007
    • Bibb, Henry. Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave. Written by Himself. With an Introduction by Lucius C. Matlack. New York: Published by the Author, 1850.
    • Brown, Henry Box. Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself. Manchester: Printed by Lee and Glynn, 1851. 2-012
    • Brown, William Wells. Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave. Written by Himself. Boston: The Anti-slavery office, 1847.
    • Bruce, Henry Clay. The New Man. Twenty-Nine Years a Slave. Twenty-Nine Years a Free Man. York, Pennsylvania: P. Anstadt & Sons, 1895. 6-006
    • Craft, William. Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom. London: William Tweedie, 1860. 2 -023
    • Clarke, Lewis and Milton. Narratives of the Sufferings of Lewis and Milton Clarke, Sons of a Soldier of the Revolution, During a Captivity of More Than Twenty Years Among the Slaveholders of Kentucky, One of the So Called Christian States of North America. Dictated by Themselves. Boston: Published by Bela Marsh, 1846.
    • Henson, Josiah. The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada. Narrated by Himself. Boston: Arthur D. Phelps, 1849. Henson, considered the source of Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin also published the following:
    • "Uncle Tom's story of his life." An autobiography of the Rev. Josiah Henson (Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom" ). From 1789 to 1876. London, Christian age office, 1876.
    • Northup, Solomon. Twelve Years a Slave; Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853 from a Cotton Plantation near the Red River in Louisiana. Auburn, New York: Derby and Miller, 1853.
    • Pennington, James W. C. The Fugitive Blacksmith; or, Events in the History of James W. C. Pennington. 3d ed. Westport, Connecticut: Negro Universities Press, 1971.
    • Ward, Samuel Ringgold. Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro: His Anti-Slavery Labours in the United States, Canada, & England. London: John Snow, 35, Paternoster Row, 1855.

      • Unquestionably the fugitive slave most familiar to most students is Harriet Tubman who collaborated with Sarah Hopkins Bradford (under whose name Tubman's two autobiographies are indexed at the UNC website):

        • Harriet, the Moses of Her People. New York: Geo. R. Lockwood & Son, 1886.
        • Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, Auburn, New York: W.J. Moses, printer, 1869.
      Print versions are available for many of the narratives listed above and others including:
    • Andrews, William L., ed. Six Women's Slave Narratives. Schomburg Library of 19th Century Black Women Writers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
    • Blackett, R.J.M. Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom: The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998.
    • Jacobs, Harriet A. (Harriet Ann). Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. The Schomburg Library of 19th Century Black Women Writers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
    • Larison, Cornelius Wilson. Silvia Dubois: A Biografy of the Slav who Whipt her Mistres and Gand her Fredom. Schomburg Library of 19th Century Black Women Writers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
    • Nichols, Charles Harold, comp. Black Men in Chains: Narratives by Escaped Slaves. New York: L. Hill, 1972.
    • Osofsky, Gilbert, ed. Puttin' on Ole Massa: The Slave Narratives of Henry Bibb, William Wells Brown, and Solomon Northrup. New York: Harper and Row, 1969.
    • Still, William. The underground rail road. A record of facts, authentic narratives, letters, &c., narrating the hardships, hair-breadth escapes and death struggles of the slaves in their efforts for freedom, as related by themselves and others, or witnessed by the author; together with sketches of some of the largest stockholders, and most liberal aiders and advisers, of the road. Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1872. 2-026

      Benjamin Drew wrote about fugitive slaves in Canada: A North-Side View of Slavery. The Refugee: or the Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada. Related by themselves, with an account of the history and condition of the colored population of Upper Canada. 2-031 Drew also wrote Testimony of the Canadian Fugitives (ca. 1850), which includes testimonies of Edward Hicks, Henry Nlue, Thomas Hedgebeth, Harry Thomas, and William Hall.
  • Another source for Canadian narratives is: Robin Winks et al, eds., Four Fugitive Slave Narratives. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1969.
  • Interdisciplinary Links

    • Geography: Students may wish to combine all the fugitive slave journeys onto a large, wall-size map of North America, using either different colored markers, or different colored yarns and pushpins, making certain that they include a key. Images of many of the fugitive slaves may be printed out from the UNC site as part of the key, if desired.
    • Music: In collaboration with the music teacher, students could locate and learn a selection of songs used by fugitive slaves and the Underground Railroad, either for direction, inspiration, or as code. Examples of songs include Follow the Drinking Gourd, Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Knees, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Wade in the Water, and Go Down Moses.
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