Underground Railroad: The William Still Story

Expand/Collapse Underground Railroad: The William Still Story


Underground Railroad: The William Still Story tells compelling and lesser known stories of one of North America’s greatest sagas. This documentary tells the dramatic story of William Still, one of the most important yet largely unheralded figures in the history of the Underground Railroad. Still’s records of those who passed through the Philadelphia “station” are some of the best evidence of the workings of the Underground Railroad and the freedom seekers who used it – where they came from, how they’d escaped, and the families they left behind. It was an extraordinary risk to keep such records. Still risked losing his own freedom to tell the stories of those who had the courage to run. But it was worth the risk.He was determined to reunite families separated by slavery after meeting his own long lost brother while working in the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery office. Today, Still’s book, a compilation of the secret notes he’d kept, is recognized as the most authentic account of some of America’s most heroic stories.

These lesson plans, designed for a middle school audience, are tied to important elements of William Still’s life and the lives of the people and families he touched. Lessons feature topics such as heroism, geography, spirituality & the study of hidden messages in songs/hymns, the advantages and dangers and of public & private journaling (past/present), and the struggle of right versus wrong in relation to the Fugitive Slave Laws.

  • Hidden Messages in Spirituals Lesson Plan

    This lesson, to be used with Underground Railroad: The William Still Story, allows students to explore how spirituals were used by the enslaved. Many of the songs contained hidden meanings or messages. The enslaved would "send" messages to others who were planning escape or helping them to escape, so many spirituals of this time truly had a deeper meaning. Students will listen to a spiritual and decode its hidden messages. They will also write a song with a hidden message of their own.

    Grades: 6-8
  • Travel on the Underground Railroad Lesson Plan

    This lesson plan is to be used with Underground Railroad: The William Still Story. It provides students with information about the physical geographic landscape of the Eastern United States of America and Canada between the Atlantic and Mississippi River. Students will plot a path, on the Underground Railroad, from a point in the Southern United States to various points along the way to a safe house in Canada. Students will be required to research the travel route and surrounding areas and find out what obstacles or help they might encounter on their way.

    Grades: 6-8,13+
  • Social Media and the Underground Railroad Lesson Plan

    This lesson to be used with Underground Railroad: The William Still Story introduces students to the benefits of recording history. However, they also learn the dangers of sharing information publicly. Social media is explored as an effective, but sometimes dangerous messaging tool.

    Grades: 6-8,13+
  • To Follow or Not to Follow? Lesson Plan

    This lesson is to be used with the program Underground Railroad: The William Still Story. Students will learn about the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Students will decide what types of rules and laws that they obey and/or should obey. The topic of following a rule or law even if they find it immoral will be explored.

    Grades: 6-8
  • Heroism and Leadership Lesson Plan

    This lesson is to be used with Underground Railroad: The William Still Story. Students will discuss what it really means to be a hero and/or a leader. What are the qualities of a hero? A leader? Students explore the similarities and differences and relate those qualities to William Still and enslaved people.

    Grades: 6-8,13+

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