Social Studies

Grade Level


Framework Standards

D1.5.6-8, D2.His.3.6-8, D3.3.6-8, D4.3.6-8

Changemakers: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

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 this inquiry 3 of 5, “Changemakers: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper,” students engage in historical investigation by analyzing literature, specifically poems, short stories, and speeches, as primary texts, providing opportunities for cross disciplinary study with English Language Arts. Harper serves as a case study for the importance of listening to marginalized voices from the past, and the historical significance of literature as primary sources.

Students will be required to conduct independent inquiry within the parameters of the question – What does the life and work of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper teach us about being free, Black, and female in the 1800s?

Students will engage in social justice work by challenging common narratives of U.S. history. In their investigation, students analyze the voice of a Black, female abolitionist and begin to make connections between social justice work of the past and present.

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 abolition. We encourage teachers and students to visit our museum and continue this exploration through our exhibits and focus on narratives.

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