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The Escape

On September 17th, 1849, Harriet Tubman ran away with her two brothers. A runaway ad was soon listed in the newspaper calling for their capture. This module describes the impact of increased governmental restrictions and harsh penalties on Harriet Tubman and other freedom seekers. Students will analyze primary source material from the Library of Congress and New York Public Library Digital Collections, and consider discussion prompts for more dialogue and deeper reflection.

Essential Question:

How do oppressed people empower themselves to achieve freedom?

Thinking Questions:

  • What kind of information about enslavement can be gleaned from runaway ads?
  • Reflect on how the runaway ads may have created a narrative that dehumanized enslaved people so that they were not seen as human beings.
  • What methods did enslavers use to keep enslaved people from freeing themselves?
  • Why does Harriet Tubman run away again so soon after a failed attempt to escape?
  • How do increased restrictions and harsher punishments impact Harriet Tubman and other freedom seekers in their quest for freedom?

Close read the printed text, Abolition fanaticism in New York. Speech of a runaway slave from Baltimore, May 11, 1847.

  • What is the purpose of this speech? Who wrote the speech?
  • Who do you think was the audience intended to hear this speech?
  • Why do you think the author titled the speech, “Abolition Fanactism”?
  • What do you notice, wonder, and feel after reading this page from the speech?
  • What do you learn from this speech that you might not learn anywhere else?

Examine the newspaper, The Camden confederate. May 01, 1863.

  • What text do you notice first?
  • What textual details indicate when and where the newspaper was published?
  • What can you tell about the point of view of the people who produced this newspaper?
  • How do the the runaway ads at the bottom of column 3 and in column 4 make you feel?
  • What actions led to the injustices presented by this source?

Examine the illustration, Urging Matt to fly to freedom.

  • Look closely at the illustration and make observations about what you notice, wonder, and feel.
  • Why do you think this illustration was made?
  • Who are the people shown in the illustration? How are they arranged?
  • What textual clues help you understand the message?
  • What can you learn from examining this illustration?