Lesson Plan

Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad

Photograph of Harriet Tubman by Horatio Seymour Squyer, c. 1885.
Photo caption

Photograph of Harriet Tubman by Horatio Seymour Squyer, c. 1885.

From about 1830 to the beginning of the Civil War, it is estimated that 100,000 slaves escaped from their captivity in southern states through a clandestine system known as the Underground Railroad. While at first arriving in a free state, either to the north, west, or south, was enough to guarantee freedom, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made it necessary for slaves to leave the country entirely, to Canada, Mexico, or Liberia on the west coast of Africa. How did slaves escape to these places?  Who operated the network of stops and hideouts along the way? In this lesson, students will comprehend the organizational structure of the Underground Railroad; learn about one of its most famous conductors, Harriet Tubman; and consider ways that heroines and heroes of slavery resistance should be remembered. 

Guiding Questions

What was the Underground Railroad and how did it operate?

Why was Harriet Tubman successful in helping slaves escape to the North?

How should the accomplishments of Harriet Tubman be remembered?

Learning Objectives

Examine the motives for and consequences of traveling the Underground Railroad.

Analyze Harriet Tubman's impact on slavery and the abolition movement.

Analyze the influence of geography and politics on maintaining the Underground Railroad. 

Evaluate Harriet Tubman's legacy in relation to abolition and within U.S. history.