YAL - Young Adult Literature Presenter Unit 2013/2014


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The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First-Hand Accounts
by William Still


YAL Presenter Unit 2013/2014

Subjects: English
Grade Level: 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
Posted: 2014, CCSS, Common Core State Standards
Unit Created by: Beverly Rowls

What makes this a good YAL choice...

I have always loved non-fiction. For each YAL Conference I strive to combine a non-fiction with a fiction text to provide more choice for our diverse student population. There were so many landmark historical anniversaries to celebrate in 2013. I decided to focus on The Underground Railroad since that year marked the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.


Textbooks tend to focus on what they feel are major events, such as the Civil War. I have found few texts for middle and high school students that provide diverse perspectives especially for something as important as the Underground Railroad and its impact on the Civil War. Students need to know more about that time-period than that black people were slaves.


The Underground Railroad was instrumental in showing Lincoln how desperately the slaves wanted and deserved their freedom. Young people today need to hear these stories so that this historical period can come alive, showing how people of varied backgrounds worked together to fight against this horrid institution. This memoir provides only a few of the many stories of black people who escaped from slavery. In using this book for my unit, along with primary source documents, I illustrated how the legal system of the United States worked diligently to maintain slavery and inequality of opportunities for both free and enslaved people of African descent. Unfortunately, this book cannot provide stories from the millions who remained in slavery until those laws were changed.


We need to revisit and hear the many stories of those who, by their involvement in The Underground Railroad and Abolitionism broke the law, then changed the laws that perpetuated the institution of slavery thus paving the way toward freedom for all Americans.


While many of the accounts are heartbreaking, they show the strength of character and resilience of a people who would not be broken. This topic lends itself well to developing strong and motivated classroom discussions as well as for encouraging inquiry skills and examining social justice issues — Beverly Rowls


YAL Conference Workshop Description
Exploring The Underground Railroad in Primary Source Documents: Liberty and Justice for All, unless . . .
Beverly Rowls, Presenter

...unless you were a slave. The Dred Scott Decision (1857) decided that, "a slave had no rights; no slave or descendant of a slave could be a U.S. citizen, or ever had been a U.S. citizen; and had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." What other historical documents allowed the atrocity of slavery to be perpetuated for centuries before it finally ended? The Underground Railroad has been identified as the first successful instance of civil disobedience in United States history. The focus of this workshop is to examine primary source documents and a variety of genres to explore the importance of how people of many ages, classes and races came together to abolish the scourge that was slavery. — Workshop Description for YAL 2013