In Pursuit of Freedom: Teaching the Underground Railroad

In Pursuit of Freedom: Teaching the Underground RailroadIn Pursuit of Freedom: Teaching the Underground Railroad

By William C. Kashatus
Foreword by James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton

139 pp. Illustrations, maps, endnotes, appendices, bibliography
ISBN: 0-325-00652-0 $18.00 soft cover.


Hushed figures wading by the dark of night through infested swamps, scurrying through the densest woods, silently creeping to the next way station in a long journey that could take them to dignity, freedom, and self-determination. The edge-of-your-seat adventures of fugitive slaves fascinate students and engage them in the story of the Underground Railroad. In Pursuit of Freedom shows you how to turn that student interest into a multifaceted history experience.

As a social reform movement and an act of political subterfuge, the Underground Railroad responded to the moral crises of its day yet also wrought ethical dilemmas of its own. Beginning with a detailed overview of American slavery and the abolitionist movement, William Kashatus puts the Railroad into context, distinguishing history from mythology while opening rich moral and ethical questions for consideration. By examining the times hands on through social studies disciplines like geography, economics, civics, ethics, and Constitutional law, students develop their own interpretation of the Railroad and express it through reading, writing, reflection, and projects.

Kashatus also offers a wide variety of hands-on methods that bring the Underground Railroad to vivid life, including how to: teach with source documents and photographs; write local-history research papers; think critically about the ethical questions surrounding the Railroad; perform in-class dramas; and decode slave songs.

Go beyond your textbook’s facile depiction of the Underground Railroad, energize your teaching of antebellum history with In Pursuit of Freedom, and watch as your students make a journey of their own — into knowledge of the past, empathy for the people of another time, and a love of historical inquiry.


“William Kashatus’ In Pursuit of Freedom takes on the myth and the reality of the Underground Railroad with a balanced perspective that will help middle school teachers provide students with a complex story both faithful to the historical record and respectful of oral tradition. With a keen understanding of learning styles and the developmental stage of middle-school students, Kashatus offers well-tested exercises in reading and interpreting documents, photographs, and engravings, as well as suggestions for active learning such as decoding songs and participating in reenactments. Teachers will also find useful advice on helping students engage in original research on local history. ” – James O. Horton and Lois E. Horton, from the foreword