Riding the Underground Railroad

Riding the Underground Railroad
Mary Lincoln: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Two to three class periods


Mary Todd Lincoln was First Lady during what was perhaps the most dificult period in American history, the Civil War.  Before the war, which essentially ended slavery, overburdened slaves longed for freedom.  Fearful of being caught and severely punished by abusive slave owners, slaves either remained as property or made the daring trek North, to Canada, so they could be free from bondage.  This lesson places students within the Underground Railroad and allows them to role-play various characters so they can understand what it may have been like during this time.


Students will learn about the various components involved in the Underground Railroad.  This lesson will attempt to place students within the environment of the underground railroad so they can develop an appreciation for the freedoms won by the Civil War.

Materials Required:

Computer Internet access Word processor (or paper and writing utensil) Research tools (books, videos, photos, and magazines)


  1. Depending on the grade level of the students, introduce the underground railroad using videos, books, or internet.  This will give students a foundation for the lesson’s intent.
  2. Instruct the students that they will role play the life of a slave who has the option of running away and using the Underground Railroad network as their means of escape.
  3. Involve students in a discussion about the hazards encountered during travel and the benefits of obtaining freedom.  This will give students ideas for the generation of their final product.
  4. Depending on their grade level, students should produce a short paper, draw a picture, write a story, etc, explaining their experience escaping from slavery.

Extending the Lesson:

  • Have each student share how they would feel and what they would experience during a journey through the Underground Railroad.
  • Students could develop a powerpoint presentation of their journey, complete with pictures, maps, and text.

Sources & Resources:

Websites: Credits:
This lesson was developed by Marian Maxfield, Kent State University