Museum Classroom: Freedom Bag Activity

Lesson: Freedom Bag Activity
Topic: Black History
Sub-Topic: Freedom Seekers on the Underground Railroad
Grades: 4-8


Instruction for Educators

Note: This activity assumes a prerequisite knowledge of the history of slavery in North America.

Review: Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was a network of safe houses located throughout the United States that was built by abolitionists and Freedom Seekers for the purpose of helping enslaved peoples escape slavery. It is sometimes helpful to reinforce that the Underground Railroad was not a railroad, nor was it underground.

The network usually led Freedom Seekers to Canada, where by 1834 slavery had been abolished.

The journey, usually made by foot, was long and dangerous. Often, Freedom Seekers would leave without much notice and of the few possessions they had, rarely took much with them. Additionally, the United States passed laws that made Freedom Seekers ‘fugitives’ and encouraged people called Bounty Hunters to capture and return Freedom Seekers to their owners.

Activity: Freedom Bag

If you were a freedom seeker, what items would you bring with you on the Underground Railroad? Select six (6) objects from the activity sheet to pack in your Freedom Bag. Cut out the objects and glue them into your bag. Consider your items carefully and be ready to discuss your choices.

Materials:

  • Freedom Bag activity sheet
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Pencil crayons

Discussion: Freedom Bag

  • What items did you select to take with you on your journey? Why?
  • What items would you take with you today on a journey like this? Why?

Extension: Freedom Bag at Home

Select some regular household items from around the house and put them out on the table. Have your students pick 3 items to bring with them on their journey and again, have them explain why. You can make it difficult by including ‘tempting’ items (like a smartphone or candy) or strange items (use only spatulas) and have your students justify their selections.

Wrap Up: Significance of the Freedom Bag

Wrap up the Freedom Bag activity by discussing the significance of Freedom Seekers making the choice to escape enslavement and take the journey North and that:

  • Freedom Seekers often escaped alone and left their families behind.
  • Freedom Seekers needed to balance essential items for survival with their ability to move quickly.
  • Freedom Seekers were faced with the decision of a very dangerous journey into the unknown or remaining in slavery.
  • Freedom Seekers made valuable and significant contributions to our community while they lived in St. Catharines.

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