Kentucky's Underground Railroad: Passages to Freedom fills in a missing piece of Kentucky history and supports inquiry in a variety of subject areas. Teachers in grades 4-12 can use the entire 60-minute program, or segments, to illustrate Kentucky's role in the story of slavery, abolitionism, and the underground railroad. Several Kentucky educators have reviewed the documentary and written letters to colleagues suggesting uses with students at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
Letters to Colleagues
An overview of some of the themes in the documentary can be used to develop cross curricular units.
Individual sections of the documentary can be adapted to fit specific grade levels. Plus, a behind-the-scenes look at the documentary provides ideas to incorporate technology with content and offers insights into careers in television production.
Visit the KDE companion Web site (www.kde.state.ky.us/) for more teaching resources and related educational Web sites.
The Kentucky Department of Education Core Content for Assessment site will be useful to teachers in all curriculum areas. KDE Core Content
Kentucky's Learning Goals and Academic Expectations
Kentucky's Underground Railroad-Passage to Freedom connects to the following goals
in social studies and arts and humanities.
Arts and Humanities
Documentary Theme Overview
Kentucky's Underground Railroad-Passage to Freedom illustrates the influence of Kentucky geography, history, economy, politics, and culture in the context of a much larger social, political and moral struggle in American history. By hearing interviews with real people telling their family stories, students will realize that history lessons are not always found in books. They will also realize the importance of corroboration when history was not recorded and activities were conducted secretly.
Humanities themes in this documentary are:
This story of rebellion and sacrifice in resistance to human bondage and cruelty has largely been undocumented. The costs of being discovered after a failed escape were death, imprisonment, whipping, or sale "down the river" so secrets of successful escapes were well hidden. Help for escaping slaves could come from many sources including other slaves, free blacks (some never held in bondage), Native Americans, whites acting alone, or whites acting as conductors along the Underground Railroad. Similarly, there were patrollers acting alone or with others who tried to foil escapes and return slaves to their masters. Secret codes of communication to aid escapees were embedded in music, quilts, and signals. The stars, particularly the North Star, were guides for runaways. Though hidden passageways, stairs, and rooms are frequently rumored throughout Kentucky, few are actually documented as sites to aid the escape of slaves.
Importance of documentation and preservation of local history
Many of the stories represented in the documentary have been passed down for generations
in oral histories, some with physical evidence that the stories were true. Others are
well documented and represent some of the bravest stories of Kentuckians on record.
Kentucky still has the opportunity to document and preserve what remains untold of
this story. Teachers and students must first incorporate what is documented into the
curriculum and then encourage students at all levels to research their own family and
local community histories and use various forms of communication to share with others.