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Wade in the Water

Harriet Tubman made the last of her approximately 13 journeys in late 1860, just as the Civil War was beginning. She tried to get her sister Rachel and her children, only to learn that Rachel had died several months prior to her arrival. This module examines how Harriet Tubman became one of the most successful conductors on the Underground Railroad. Students will analyze primary source materials from the New York Public Library Digital Collections and the Library of Congress, and consider discussion prompts for more dialogue and deeper reflection.

Essential Question:

What qualities or characteristics influence a person’s role to create social change?

Thinking Questions:

  • Why is the hymn, “Wade in the Water” so closely associated with freedom seekers?
  • How was Harriet Tubman successful in leading enslaved people to freedom as a conductor on the Underground Railroad?
  • Why was Harriet Tubman insistent that none of her “passengers” give up and return to slavery?
  • Why was Harriet Tubman unwilling to accept any credit for her work on the Underground Railroad?

Primary Source 1: Examine the map, "Underground" routes to Canada: showing the lines of travel of fugitive slaves.

  • Describe what you see. What do you notice first?
  • What graphical elements do you see on the map?
  • Why do you think this map was made?
  • What does this map tell you about what the map makers knew, and what they didn’t know?
  • If this map was made today, what would be different? · What would be the same?

Examine the printed text, “Moses arrives with six passengers” - Image 299 of Page view.

  • What was the purpose of this text?
  • Who created it?
  • Who do you think was intended to read the text?
  • Can you tell anything about what was important at the time it was made?
  • What can you learn about Harriet Tubman from examining this text?

Examine the image, Harriet Tubman tablet.

  • Describe what you see. What do you notice first?
  • When do you think this was made? Why do you think it was important to create this?
  • Who do you think was the audience?
  • What can you learn from examining this image?
  • What made Harriet Tubman fearless and confident in order to return many times to free her family and others?