Lesson: Follow the North Star Activity Pages Topic: Black History Subtopic: Freedom Seekers on the Underground Railroad Grade: 4-8
- Pencil crayons or crayons
- A SMILE
- Activity pages (x3)
*Note: if you do not have access to a printer, you can save and download the activity pages available below and complete them virtually. You can use drawing software like Paint or another program that lets you draw!
Pre-Lesson Activity: Discussing Freedom
Living in Canada today, we are all free. What does freedom mean to you? Why does freedom matter? What is the opposite of being free? Print out the colour page below and write down your thoughts.
Lesson: Freedom Seekers and The Underground Railroad
Not everyone in Canada used to be free. In fact, at one time, Canada used to have slavery. Slavery is when a person is owned by another person. The enslaved person would have to do work under harsh conditions for little or no pay. This was because of racism, ignorance, and prejudice. Most slaves in Canada and the United States were Black. Many societies have had slavery, but most societies now consider slavery to be wrong.
In 1834, slavery in Canada was abolished. At this time, we were a part of Great Britain. The British government passed a law called passed The Slavery Abolition Act, which made the enslavement of people illegal.
Although slavery in Canada ended in 1834, the slave trade continued in the United States until 1863. During this time, especially in the 1850s and 1860s, Canada became a common refuge for enslaved peoples who escaped slavery and sought freedom on the Underground Railroad. These people were known as Freedom Seekers.
The Underground Railroad was a complex network of routes, pathways, people, and places to help freedom seekers escape slavery and find freeom in Canada. While the Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad, it was extremely secretive and thus used railroad terminology as code-words. For example, escaping Freedom Seekers were referred to as “passengers”, “cargo”, “package”, and “freight”. They were delivered to “stations” which were safe houses, which were located in various cities and towns known as “terminals”. Those helping the escaping enslaved peoples were called “conductors”.
A slaves’ journey on the Underground Railroad was full of danger and risk. After 1850, not only was it illegal for an enslaved person to escape slavery in the United States, it was also illegal for a free person to help a slave escape. Bounty Hunters, or slave-catchers, were employed to search, arrest, and enslave any person they thought was an escaped slave – even if they were free! During the period between the 1850s and 1860s, it was very dangerous to be a Black person living in the United States. As a result, thousands made the journey on the Underground Railroad to seek freedom in Canada.
Print out the maze activity page below and see if you can help Eli find his way to freedom. Consider the obstacles he might encounter on the Underground Railroad.
At the time of the Underground Railroad, Canada became a symbol of hope and new beginnings for Freedom Seekers. It was common on the Underground Railroad for a Freedom Seeker to hear that if they followed the North Star in the night sky, they would eventually find freedom, as travelling north would bring them into Canada.
St. Catharines was a major “terminal”, or destination, on the Underground Railroad. In the 1850s and 1860s, hundreds of Freedom Seekers settled in St. Catharines to begin their new, free, lives. For the first time, Freedom Seekers could enjoy having paying jobs, owning their own homes, raising their families, and building their own community. The North Star continued to be their symbol of freedom and new life.
Print the North Star colouring page below. Colour and decorate the page with your own symbols of hope and freedom.
Wrap-up: Freedom Seekers Discussion
Consider what a Freedom Seeker might have felt while on the Underground Railroad. Why was it so important for them to escape and seek freedom?
For more Museum Classroom activities on the Underground Railroad, check out the lessons below: