[UNDER CONSTRUCTION! Please excuse the ragged appearance of this guide.]
Permission is hereby granted to clients of Sharon Kirk Clifton to photocopy this guide for one-time usage in conjunction with the artist’s performance of Abigail Gray: Living under the Drinking Gourd.
With much gratitude to Frank Basile, who funds the Frank Basile Emerging Stories Fellowship that allowed me to research and prepare this program in 2004; Storytelling Arts of Indiana that provides support, encouragement, and development for the art of storytelling and Indiana’s many excellent tellers; Ellen Munds, executive director of SAI; Diane Perrine Coon, who so graciously shared with me her extensive research about the Underground Railroad in southeastern Indiana, Jae Breitweiser, president of Eleutherian College board; and the many others who allowed me to interview them and who escorted me to some of the hiding places of the UGRR, I present this program and encourage educators to use some of these enrichment and extension ideas.
Abigail Gray: Living under the Drinking Gourd is set in 1859 in southeastern Indiana, with some mention of national figures and sending and receiving stations south, north, and east. I hope that it will inspire students to research UGRR activity in their own areas and elsewhere. With the exception of Abigail Gray and her family (who are fictitious and represent the myriad unrecorded UGRR workers), the people and events in this program are a matter of historical record. The character of Abigail Gray serves as a vehicle through which I can tell the stories. For every well-known worker, there were hundreds who did their good deeds quietly and without recognition. The Grays represent those unknown servants of freedom.
Many films, videos, books, and other materials about the UGRR center on the activities along the East Coast, neglecting the states further west that border the Ohio River, the “River Jordan,” of many Negro spirituals. Indiana and Ohio figured prominently, as Freedom Seekers fled to the North and relative freedom.
Secret signs and signals varied in different parts of the country, as did UGRR stationmasters’ treatment of the Freedom Seekers who depended on them. The UGRR is the subject of much misinformation. For example, the well-known “signal quilts” or “freedom quilts” that guided fugitives on their way were not used universally, but rather by the Gullah people living on the sea islands of South Carolina; the quilts were used to guide those Freedom Seekers over the Appalachian mountains, according to Coon.
Putting a pulse to the past,
Sharon Kirk Clifton
Some of the People and Places Mentioned in Abigail Gray: Living under the Drinking Gourd”…
Curriculum Connection (CC): social studies
George DeBaptiste Elijah Anderson William Anderson
Chapman Harris Lymon Hoyt Benajah Hoyt
Rev. Thomas Hicklin Harvey & Eunice Marshall Arvin Quier
Stephen Harding Right Rea
Knights of the Golden Circle Levi & Catherine Coffin
Israel (“Iz,” “Copperhead”) Cooper
Neil’s Creek Anti-slavery Society members
John Carr and the other Ryker’s Ridge Abolitionists of Jefferson County
William Lee (related to Robert E. Lee, by the way)
Freeman Anderson (who was not technically free, but acted as a free man)
...and some nationally-known figures who may or may not be mentioned:
Frederick Douglas William Still Sojourner Truth
John Brown Harriet Tubman Harriet Beecher Stowe
Thomas Garrett Abraham Lincoln Henry Bibb
Rev. John Rankin Dred Scott William Lloyd Garrison
Robert E. Lee
Some Places Mentioned:
Ryker’s Ridge, just north of Madison
Paris, northwest of Madison
Lancaster, northwest of Madison
Eleutherian College, Lancaster
Butlerville, northeast of Vernon
Graham Creek, Jennings Co.
Little Graham Creek, Jennings Co.
Azalia, Quaker community in Bartholomew County
Richland (a.k.a., “Africa”), former site in what is now Crosley State Fish and Wildlife Area
Zenas, in rugged northeast Jennings County near Ripley County line
Flat Rock Freewill Baptist Church, near Zenas, but in Ripley County
Newport, present-day Fountain City, in Wayne County, near Richmond, Ind.
Abolitionist antebellum slavery North Star
Big Dipper border state conductor stationmaster
Drinking gourd feeding station Underground Railroad mulatto
freedom seeker slave auction quadroon
The Underground Railroad in Full Bloom
Using Dr. Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Higher Order Thinking Skills to
Explore further the UGRR
CC: social studies, language arts
Description: students answer questions about the UGRR, slavery in the U.S., and the information given by Clifton in Abigail Gray: Living under the Drinking Gourd.
- When did slaves first arrive in the New World?
- When was slavery outlawed in Canada?
- When was slavery outlawed in the northern U.S. states?
- What title did admirers give to Harriet Tubman?
- In Negro spirituals, which often were signal songs, what river was called “Jordan.”
- What is another name for the Drinking Gourd?
- Why was Kentucky called a border state?
- What was the name of Jefferson County, Indiana’s pro-slavery sheriff?
- What made Rev. Thomas Hicklin’s house different from most homes?
- Who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin?
- Where did the Marshalls hide Freedom Seekers?
- When George DeBaptiste left Madison, where did he go?
- What signal did Chapman Harris use to let Freedom Seekers know it was safe go come ashore at Eagle Hollow?
- Who was president of the United States in 1859?
CC: social studies, language arts, visual arts, drama/ oral presentation
Description: students demonstrate that they not only know the facts, but also understand them. They translate the events into a slightly different form or restate it in their own words.
- Create a work of art depicting your favorite part of Abigail Gray: Living under the Drinking Gourd.
- Explain why the Freedom Seekers were not completely safe even after they had crossed the Ohio River.
- Explain why someone would risk heavy fines, imprisonment, and even death to conduct or be a stationmaster.
- Why did the South feel that slavery was necessary?
- How did the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852 affect the South? The North?
- Retell the story of how George DeBaptiste transported Freedom Seekers to John Carr on Ryker’s Ridge or to Lancaster’s Abolitionists.
- Much of southeastern Indiana is hilly, cut through with the wandering Muscatatuck River and its feeder streams and tributaries. These waterways have occasional caves and overhanging rock ledges along their banks. How would terrain like this be beneficial to Freedom Seekers?
CC: social studies, language arts, visual arts, drama/ oral presentation, problem solving, research skills
Description: students illustrate, translate, interpret, dramatize, and classify. Application level activities still stick fairly closely to the original story, but students decide where and how to use it.
· Create a map of southeastern Indiana, showing the events told about in Abigail Gray: Living under the Drinking Gourd. This can be a flat map or a three-dimensional map (perhaps made of papiér mâché ).
· Choose your favorite part of the program; write a script for that part (can be readers’ theatre), cast and rehearse it; present it to your class or another.
· Write about a time when you or someone very close to you were in a difficult situation, making you or the other person you’re writing about feel helpless and powerless.
· Find and write or tell about examples of slavery in other countries and times.
· If you needed to hide a Freedom Seeker today, where would you hide him? Remember, you might be closely watched. What things would you need to provide for the FS? How would you provide those things? How would you get the FS safely to the next station? Be creative; the Abolitionists were!
· Discover what other people in other countries call the Big Dipper.
CC: social studies, language arts, critical thinking, problem solving, research skills
Description: Activities clarify the elements, relationships, and organizational principles of Abigail Gray, going deeper or beyond explanations provided in the program.
· What did most Abolitionists have in common? List at least five commonalities.
· It is estimated that as many as 1,000,000 slaves made at least one attempt at escape. Few of those succeeded to gain freedom, and many who did reach the relative freedom of the North did so after multiple failed attempts. What did the Freedom Seekers have in common with one another? List at least five commonalities.
· The Abigail Gray program is set in 1859. Abraham Lincoln would be elected in 1860. Then the Civil War would begin in April 1861. What circumstances and events led up to this war?
· What events in current or recent news remind you of slavery in the U.S. and the Underground Railroad’s efforts to help Freedom Seekers to true freedom? (Hint: think about other places in the world.)
· Why was southeastern Indiana such an important area for the UGRR?
· Following the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, nearly all Negroes disappeared from southern Illinois. Why?
· How did the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 affect Free Blacks?
· How did the California Gold Rush affect the slavery issue?
· What roles did Free Blacks play in the Underground Railroad?
CC: social studies, language arts, critical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving, research skills, visual arts, performing arts
Description: Activities produce a new plan, relationship, or communication by rearranging story material plus fresh material. Students can compose, propose, plan, invent, predict, assemble, imagine, and design.
· Explain how the anti-slavery and pro-slavery people would be able to live in the same areas? What would their lives be like? Think about personal relationships.
· Compose a song about the UGRR. Sing it for your class.
· Using a board game that already exists, change it into a game about the UGRR or make up a new game about the UGRR.
· Craft a drinking gourd out of papier mâché or clay.
· Using a real gourd, make it into a drinking gourd. There are books and websites about this process.
· Write a play about the UGRR, to be used as a stage play or as readers’ theatre. Cast it, rehearse it, and present it to your class, another class, or parents.
· Conduct a trial, complete with a judge, jury, lawyers, and a defendant. Try a Copperhead, slave-catcher, slave owner, or an Abolitionist UGGR worker.
· Be a news anchor interviewing two people with opposing views: a slave owner and an Abolitionist.
· Devise a plan that could have prevented the War Between the States while satisfying both sides.
· Pretend that President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln after Lincoln was assassinated, has chosen you to devise a plan to help the South recover from the Civil War and develop economically without a slave force to do the heavy labor. Develop such a plan. You can find out what actually was done, what worked, and what didn’t, to give you some background, but create your own original plan.
· Write a poem from the viewpoint of a Freedom Seeker.
· Paint a night scene of Freedom Seekers and their conductor in a dangerous situation.
· Choreograph a dance routine that reflects the struggle and the pain of slavery.
· Write a rap song about Harriet Tubman or any other hero of the struggle for freedom whom you admire.
· Design and build a model of a house that is a UGRR station. Where will the Abolitionist hide the Freedom Seekers? What signals will he/she use to let them know that it is safe to approach the house?
· Learn about the Freedom Quilts used by and for the Gullah Freedom Seekers. Choose your favorite signal quilt pattern and make a quilt square. You can sew the square out of appropriate fabric or make it out of construction paper or wrapping paper. You may want to make several to frame and hang.
· Write a short story about a boy or a girl your age involved in the UGRR, either as an Abolitionist or as a young Freedom Seeker.
· Create a UGRR “Freedom Mobile” out of anything that will work. Hang it from the ceiling of your classroom.
· Design a bulletin board that shows the major UGRR routes in Indiana. Be sure to indicate in some way when the different routes would have been used. Remember that early in U.S. history, all of the country allowed slavery, as did Canada. Where did the Freedom Seekers run then?
· Choose an incident from the time of the UGRR and slavery that touches you in some way, and develop a story about the event. Tell it to your class. Make it interesting to them. You may email the storyteller at email@example.com for some tutoring in how to do this.
· Write a journal entry (or more than one, if you wish) pretending to be a young Freedom Seeker who made it to Canada. Where in Canada are you? What is your life like? What do you eat? What makes you happy? What makes you sad? Who are your heroes? You might want to learn more about Ontario, Canada.
· Create a matrix logic puzzle, a word search, or a crossword puzzle for your classmates to solve.
· Write and illustrate a children’s picture book about the UGRR. (Hints: keep the words simple and make the main character about the same age as the children who will read the story.)
· Make a vocabulary list of words associated with the UGRR, slavery, and the Civil War. Conduct a spelling bee among your classmates.
· Pretend that you are a conductor. Write a journal entry about your important work.
· Write an obituary for Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, or Levi Coffin.
· Group activity: learn the rules for Lincoln-Douglas Debate and conduct such a debate, with someone supporting the Abolitionists’ viewpoint and another supporting the slave-owning South’s perspective. The great majority of people today acknowledge that slavery was a blight and an abomination, so it will be difficult to take the pro-slavery side. The person doing so should remember that he or she is just playing a part, not really supporting such an institution. After a round, switch sides, and conduct another round. (This activity is recommended for mature middle-schoolers through high school students.)
CC: social studies, language arts, critical thinking, cumulative higher order thinking skills
Description: Students judge the story or the new product, using evidence and criteria (not just personal preference or value). Students can rate, choose, criticize, assess, and justify. While evaluation is not necessarily the highest level of thinking skills, the others need to happen first.
· List the three Abolitionists whom you consider the most heroic. Defend your choices with examples of heroic deeds.
· Was John Brown a heroic martyr, a madman, or a misguided warrior? Defend your answer with examples. If possible, include some of Brown’s own speeches or writing and newspaper articles about him.
· If slavery had never been tolerated in the Colonies and later in the U.S., how would the South have been different? Support your answer.
· Why was it easier for the North to outlaw slavery early on than for the South?
· What do you think motivated some Free Blacks to betray Freedom Seekers?
· Was President Lincoln accurate in saying that Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was the “little woman who started the Civil War”? Describe the impact of that book on southern slave owners, Abolitionists, slaves, and apathetic northerners.
Educators, Bloom’s Taxonomy is not simply ordered; it is cumulative. Some items may be similar to items listed at lower levels, but at the higher level, a new dimension is added, making the activity more complex. Each level up the progression utilizes some or all of the levels beneath it. Further, the taxonomy is not a developmental progression depending upon age or experience. Students of any age can do appropriate work at each of the levels. The “Examples” I give under each level heading are just that, examples. I hope that you will build upon what I have given.
Anderson, William J., The Life of William J. Anderson. (The text of this 34-page booklet is online at http://docsouth.unc.edu/nch/andersonw/andersonw.html. Anderson was born free, indentured by his mother to a white man whom she trusted, and betrayed by that man, who sold young Anderson “down the river” into the deep South. This graphic story is suitable for mature middle school students through adults.) Chicago, Illinois, 1857.
Blockson, Charles L., National Geographic, “The Underground Railroad: Escape from Slavery.” July 1984.
Bordewich, Fergus M., Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America. New York, New York; Amstad Press, a division of Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 2005.
Coon, Diane Perrine, Southeastern Indiana’s Underground Railroad Routes and Operations, a project of the State of Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology and the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Louisville, Kentucky, 2001.
Coon, Diane Perrine, Northern Kentucky Heritage, “Secret Signals of the Underground Railroad in the Ohio River Valley,” Spring/Summer 2002.
Coon, Diane Perrine, Ripley County’s Antislavery Movement Leads to Freedom, published as a series in The Osgood Journal, March and April 2004.
The Land of Winding Waters. Arbuckle’s Printing Company, North Vernon, Indiana
A Few Websites
Conner Prairie: http://www.connerprairie.org/discover_learn/historyonline.aspx
Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Historical Bureau Underground Railroad: http://www.in.gov/dnr/historic/ugrr.html
Indiana Historical Bureau: http://www.statelib.lib.in.us/www/ihb/ugrr/map.html
Levi Coffin House: http://www.waynet.org/levicoffin/default.htm
Menare Foundation’s North Star Website: http://www.menare.org/
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center: http://www.freedomcenter.org/
PBS, “Africans in America: The Underground Railroad: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2944.html
“Underground Railroad in Indiana” by Kelly Rimsa, IUSB: http://www.iusb.edu/~journal/1998/Paper11.html
A note about target ages from the Storyteller: When I am researching a topic, I read everything I can find on the subject, including those works written for children, so don’t refuse to read a book because it is written for an age group younger than your own. Good literature is ageless. For example, one of my favorite fictional works about the Civil War is Pink and Say, which is written for elementary readers and is based on historical fact. It would also be appropriate for a study about the Underground Railroad.
Bibb, Henry. The Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb. (Ages 14-adult)
Edwards, Pamela Duncan. Barefoot: Escape on the Underground Railroad. (Ages 4-8)
Hamilton, Virginia. The House of Dies Drear. (Ages 9-12) Excellent!
Hopkinson, Deborah. Under the Quilt of Night. (Ages 4-8)
McKissack, Patricia. A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl, Belmont Plantation, 1859. (Ages 9-12)
McMullan, Kate. The Story of Harriet Tubman, Conductor of the Underground Railroad. (Ages 9-12)
Monjo, F. N. The Drinking Gourd: A Story of the Underground Railroad. (Ages 4-8)
Schotter, Roni. G is for Freedom. (Ages 4-8)
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. According to President Lincoln, this book started the Civil War, It awakened many Americans to the atrocities of slavery in the South. (Ages 12-adult)
Marsh, Betsa. Home & Away, “Crossing over Jordan: Cincinnati’s Underground Railroad Center Remembers Those Who Escaped to Freedom, July/August 2004.
The darkened counties below are where UGRR sites have been identified. More are being discovered, so that this map already is obsolete. Notice that Jennings County is not colored in; yet, it held many safe houses and routes, as did Bartholomew, Hamilton, Grant, and Decatur counties, to name a few. The three primary entrances into Indiana were Madison, New Albany, and the Evansville area. It stands to reason that there would be routes through Indiana toward Detroit and on to Canada or Chicago and on. The UGRR was a clandestine operation, or rather a series of clandestine operations, since there was no national organization, so most stationmasters and conductors did not keep records of their good work.
From the Storyteller:
In preparing this program, I also interviewed several historians interested in the UGRR and visited many of the sites mentioned. I encourage you to research your own area. Visit your library, where you can read old newspapers published during or before the War between the States. Read the minutes of churches founded before the war. Talk with your county’s historian (most, if not all, Indiana counties have one). Visit historical sites. Read old letters, journals, and newspapers. Research into history is such fun! You become a history detective!
Putting a pulse to the past,
Sharon Kirk Clifton