The Changemakers series of inquiries provide teachers multiple opportunities to incorporate the history of the Underground Railroad into their curriculum across the academic year. Additionally, there are opportunities for cross-disciplinary study and collaboration. While the inquiries are aligned to eighth grade Ohio and Kentucky standards, we hope teachers across grade levels and disciplines utilize these materials. Throughout this series, lessons and activities will connect the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement to today through personal and community stories. Spanning various subjects, the overarching theme focuses on the impact changemakers have during their lifetime, the evidence they leave behind, and their ongoing impact today. Lessons and activities are unique and can build upon each other.
The theme is “Changemakers in the Past, Present & Future.” The series begins with an inquiry about historical myths and assumptions emphasizing historical and critical thinking. The second and third inquiries require students to apply these skills while developing questions and completing research regarding two historical narratives: John Parker and Francis Ellen Watkins Harper. The next two series inquiries provide the opportunity to consider, reflect upon, and engage the question of how we are connected to the past. The fourth inquiry has students consider the legacies and evidence we leave for future generations, including the powers that limit and restrict such evidence. The fifth inquiry engages students in changemaking to identify and address a problem of today to create a better tomorrow.
In inquiry 1 of 5, “Assumptions and Myths About the Past,” students engage in historical investigation by critiquing common assumptions about abolition and the Underground Railroad. Using primary and secondary sources, students will hone their historical thinking skills by investigating how and why assumptions and myths about the past become accepted as fact. They will question the intent behind assumptions and myths to better understand our past and the present.
Students will engage in social justice work by challenging common narratives of U.S. history. In their investigation of sources, students will seek multiple perspectives with emphasis on those traditionally overlooked or purposefully disregarded, specifically Black abolitionists. Students will also encourage the public to engage in critical literacy to identify historical myths.
This inquiry embodies the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center principles of courage, cooperation, and perseverance by illustrating how each was necessary for the success of the Underground Railroad. We encourage teachers and students to visit our museum and continue this exploration through our exhibits and focus on narratives. The Freedom Center uses education to dispel myths and promote historical truths, so a visit would be an excellent addition to the “Changemakers in the Past, Present & Future” series of inquiries.