The Underground Railroad curriculum for secondary schools
Welcome to the University of Dallas' UD Reads. This curriculum has been written by Erin
Begle, an English IV teacher at MacArthur High School in Irving, TX and a UD graduate.
Erin and Education professor Dr. Carmen Newstreet have collaborated to offer a variety
of resources that are sure to enhance your students' experience and reading of Colson
Whitehead's The Underground Railroad.
- Why is Colson Whitehead’s choice to write this story using magical realism as a literary
device, an appropriate one for this subject matter?
- How is Cora’s startlingly fragmented story an embodiment of our nation’s history?
- How does the story of The Underground Railroad manifest itself in our modern society?
Standards associated with the following Resources TEKS (World History, US Government, US History, English I-V)
To Get You Started!:
Variety of Higher Level Thinking Lesson Plans (grades 7-12) about the Concept of the
actual Underground Railroad - Scholastic
Goodheart, Adam. (2015). The Secret History of the Underground Railroad: Eric Froner
explores how it really worked. The Atlantic
Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan
Moses: When Harriet Tubmen Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales by Virginia Hamilton
Song Lyrics Used for Communication:
Wade in the Water: YouTube
Steal Away: YouTube
Sweet Chariot: YouTube
Follow the Drinking Gourd: YouTube
Go Down Moses: YouTube
Literature Circle Lessons - possible titles to complement The Underground Railroad:
March Trilogy (graphic novel) - by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell (suggestion by Marla
Gibson, Houston Middle School, Irving ISD)
Their Eyes Were Watching God- by Zora Neale Hurston
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Americanah- by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
Kindred- by Octavia Butler
Born a Crime- by Trevor Noah
How to Be an Anti Racist - by Ibram X Kendi
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Literature Circle Schedule
Literature Circle Role Sheets
Modern Day Applications:
Potential Field Trips:
Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum (Live or Virtual Field Trips available)
Human Rights Wing Virtual Tour of the Dallas Holocaust Museum
Interactive Lesson “Understanding Unconscious Bias”
*Current Special Exhibition (until January 12, 2020) “The Fight for Civil Rights in the South”
*Free to all Title I schools; Irving ISD provides free bus transportation to the museum
Culminating Projects Suggestions:
“GROSS (NPR): You know, toward the end of the book, one of the character - you know,
they're talking about what to do and how to help black people and who can be helped
and who maybe can't be helped, so let's not spend the energy trying to save them.
And so one character says, we're not all going to make it. Some of us are too far
gone. Slavery has twisted their minds, an imp filling their minds with foul ideas.
They've given themselves over to whiskey and its false comforts, to hopelessness and
its constant devils. Those who will not cannot respect themselves. It's too late for
them. So it's this debate. It's, like, is it too late for someone? And a character
says, we can't save everyone, but that doesn't mean we can't try. Here's one delusion
- that we can escape slavery. We can't. Its scars will never fade. And to me, like,
that's what the book is really about, how the scars of slavery will never fade.”
From your perspective, what is this book really about?
Oprah’s Book Club Discussion Questions - Students complete a Socratic Seminar starting with the questions listed here for
discussion. (Students can create their own questions for multiple levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy)
Quilt Squares to assemble into classroom quilt
Quilt Codes - Students create their own quilt with art supplies and create a code for their past
self to ease the journey, or a quilt that codifies their own life.
TED Talk Analyses Jigsaw
TED Talks- Jigsaw Opener - Students, in groups, pairs or individually, watch one TED Talk and present the key
points to a larger group or the entire class.
Compose a Fugitive Slave Advertisement
Fugitive Slave Advertisements - Students select one name and create a backstory for the primary document listed in
the Columbia University directory of fugitive slaves
Slave Advertisements from University of North Carolina, realia from the era
“Confronting the Reality of Slavery” - NPR Interview with Colson Whitehead “Fresh Air” Podcast
The Origins of Lynching -10 minute video
NewsELA - “Defund the Police”, “House Hearing on Reparations for Slavery Coincides with Juneteenth”
CommonLit - “EXCERPT FROM SOUTHERN HORRORS: LYNCH LAWS IN ALL ITS PHASES”, “Letter from Frederick Douglas to Harriet Tubman”
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
CDC Tuskegee Experiments Information
Harriet Tubman- Letters and activities