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 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 4 of 5, “Legacies and Evidence of the Past,” students engage in the historical investigation of the legacy of John P. Parker outside of his role in the Underground Railroad. By researching Parker’s patents, students will consider how racial prejudice hid and denied the intellectual property created by African Americans. In addition, students will investigate how historical markers are established and consider who and what are considered “important” in our society and how these decisions impact history.
Students will engage in social justice work by considering the legacy they will leave for future generations. Students will establish action plans for leaving positive legacies and inspiring others.
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.