Teach PA History
There Were Many Paths to Freedom
What to Know
Teaching Time
Five class periods
Grade Level
Middle School
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
  • History
Historical Period
  • Expansion and Reform - 1801-1855
Examining a famous illustration of the arrival of fugitives at Levi Coffin's home, which appears in many American history books, will uncover some inaccurate stereotypes students may have drawn about the Underground Railroad. To broaden their understanding of how the Underground Railroad worked, students will role-play a meeting of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, which conducted interviews of fugitive slaves who reached Philadelphia and decided how they would assist them. Finally three primary source accounts, including a poem by Martin Delaney, confirm that fugitive slaves who decided to remain in the North, rather than go to Canada, were not safe, especially after the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.


1. Demonstrate an understanding of the role of the Underground Railroad in the history of Pennsylvania. 2. Interpret primary source documents. 3. Draw conclusions from an historical illustration of the Underground Railroad. 4. Apply information they have gained from primary sources to a creative role-playing situation. 5. Compare and contrast two historical newspaper accounts of northern Blacks who were attacked by slave catchers. 6. Interpret a 19th century poem by Dr. Martin R. Delany. 7. Synthesize information from primary sources and draw conclusions. 8. Demonstrate that they can work effectively with others.

Standards Alignment

  • Arts and Humanities

    9.2.8. D. Analyze a work of art from its historical and cultural perspective.

  • History

    8.1.9. B. Analyze and interpret historical sources.
    8.1.9. D. Analyze and interpret historical research using primary sources.

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

    1.6.4. E. Participate in small and large group discussions and presentations giving directions and explanations.

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