For black slaves in America, the road to freedom was a
long and difficult one. The Underground Railroad was, of course, not a railroad
at all. It was simply a network of Americans, both black and white, dedicated
to destroying the institution of slavery by helping individual slaves escape to
freedom. The story of the Underground Railroad is filled with danger and drama,
tragedy and triumph, evil slave hunters and unsung heroes.
We feel this is a topic that should be taught for
children to understand what happened to these brave men and women during the
time of the Civil War. The Underground Railroad was a significant part of
history. We want children to learn what happened back then to prevent this
hatred from reoccurring again. Of course, it is hard to teach exactly what the
Underground Railroad signified to young children, but we can teach them about
what it means to take leadership and become a hero such as Harriet Tubman,
William Wells Brown, Thomas Garrett, Susan B. Anthony, Levi Coffin, and Fredrick
Douglass, just to name a few.
We feel there are many important reasons why teachers
should teach about this topic in their classrooms. The primary importance of
the Underground Railroad was that it gave ample evidence of African American
Capabilities and gave expression to African American philosophy. Perhaps the
most important factor or aspect to keep in mind concerning the Underground
Railroad is that its importance is not measured by the number of attempted or
successful escapes from American slavery, but by the manner in which it
consistently exposed the grim realities of slavery and, more important; refuted
the claim that African Americans could not act or organize on their own.
The second importance
of the Underground Railroad was that is provided an opportunity for sympathetic
white Americans to play a role in resisting slavery. It also brought together,
however uneasily at times, men and women of both races to begin to set aside
assumptions about the other race and to work together on issues of mutual
concern. At the most dramatic level, the Underground Railroad provided stories
of guided escapes from the South, rescues of arrested fugitives in the North,
complex communication systems, and individual acts of bravery and suffering.