Harriet Tubman Activity Unit
Created by Denise Ball
Harriet Tubman Timeline Activity
Objective: Evaluate timeline; recognize significance of the Under Ground Railroad and the important role Harriet Tubman played in this movement
- Students can utilize facts to create a timeline on construction paper with words and personal sketches
- Students can work in groups to illustrate events happening in history at periods on this timeline (groups could also create skits as well, giving their interpretations of these historical events)
1619 The first African slaves are brought to Virginia
1808 The US bans the import of slaves
1820 Araminta Harriet Greene (Tubman) born in Maryland
1844 Harriet marries John Tubman, a free black man
1849 Harriet Tubman escapes to the North
1850 Harriet Tubman starts rescuing slaves via the Underground Railroad
1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court decision – slaves did not have the right to bring a case to court
1858 Harriet Tubman buys a farm near Auburn, New York
1861 Abraham Lincoln elected President of the US; Civil War starts
1863 Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation
1865 Civil War ends; Lincoln is assassinated; 13th amendment to Constitution abolishes slavery
1868 14th amendment to Constitution grants citizenship to former slaves
1870 15th amendment to Constitution prohibits states from denying the right to vote because of race
1913 Harriet Tubman dies on March 10, 1913, Auburn, N.Y
Class discussion/reflection is recommended to complete lesson.
“Harriet the Hero”
Written by Denise Ball
Reading Level: Grade 5.9
Intended Audience: Grades 3-5
Note: I have tried to keep the dialogue as authentic as possible, or as I see it in my mind’s eye. I utilize the dialogue pieces as teachable moments on the importance of education, equality etc. When using with a class, I assign new character parts per scene to allow everyone to participate.
This lesson has also been modified and used with 8th graders. Students were divided into three groups, they created scene prompts and added to skits as they saw fit.
“Harriet the Hero” is a children’s skit written on my interpretation of Harriet’s journey to freedom. This skit has been utilized to enhance social studies curriculum in classrooms (3-5th grade) and can be modified to fit the needs of any class really between grades 3-8 to enhance and awareness of historical events in the United States.
This is a lesson that looks at the courageous acts of Harriet Tubman and the role she played in ending slavery in the United States.
Harriet Tubman was born in Dorchester County, Maryland, in 1820. She died March 10, 1913, in Auburn, New York.
Harriet Tubman was a runaway slave from Maryland who many called the “Moses of her people.” Over a span of ten years, with great personal risk, she led hundreds of slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, a secret network of safe houses where runaway slaves could stay on their journey north to freedom. Once free, she became a leader in the abolitionist movement. During the Civil War, she was a spy for the federal forces in South Carolina.
Harriet Tubman’s name at birth was Araminta Ross. She was one of eleven children born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland. As a child, Ross was “hired out” by her master as a nursemaid for a small baby. Harriet had to stay awake all night so that the baby would not cry and wake the mother. If she fell asleep, the baby’s mother whipped her.
Scene 1 Presenter-
On a plantation in Dorchester, Maryland, it is dusk and all the slaves have come in from the fields. As the plantation owner goes home for the night, we overhear a group of slaves in conversation, worried about Johnny being caught as he sneaks back onto the plantation. Johnny is a young slave teen that has left the plantation to go to the store, an act that could get them all in trouble if he is caught.
“I can’t believe that there Johnny would do something so foolish! He knows that we will get a beat’on if he gets himself caught.”
“Oh dear, he is young and can out run any, who comes a chasing.”
“That’s not Arminta’s point Nana; they’ll know it was him, even if he ain’t caught. This makes the third time this month that he has wondered off.”
“He is young, does not feel he should be told what to do and how to do it. He will learn that he must obey.”
“He has more beatings coming before he learns to obey and follow the rules. They be good to us here, two meals a day and a cot to sleep on. He needs to realize that we be doing ok here and we should be thankful for what we are given.”
“You call this good John? Are we not human? Does the color of our skin mean we can’t wash or sleep, or eat in a house?” “Johnny will be fine and I will help him.”
“You better, before we are all punished for his foolishness.”
“Hush, the both of ya! I am trying to rest. Tomorrow, Bill said we best be ready at 4AM to pick the field. He done made plans to go over to next plantation for some big gathering and he don’t have no time to see we get our work done.”
Scene 2 Presenter-
The plantation overseer disrupts Nana Grace, John Tubman and Arminta Ross’s peaceful night, as he burst through the door with holding Johnny up in the air, kicking and screaming.
Plantation Overseer, Mr. Bill:
“Get up!” “Get up, all ya’ll and deal with this here boy who fails to understand or appreciate all the things I do for you here.”
“Mr. Bill sir, what be the problem sir?”
“Let him go, he is only a boy!”
“John help me!” “You knows I just wanted some of that orange soda.” “It ain’t right that I have to be kept up like this, I am thirteen and I need to sometimes go.”
“I ain’t helping you boy!” “You been warned and you know you need to be here grateful for all Mr. Bill and this plantation has done for you.”
“Done for me?” “What have they done for me?” “I am told to sleep on dirt, go hungry, don’t sing, and that I can’t go for a walk, if I want to walk.”
“You are alive boy!”
“Sometimes that ain’t enough!” “What are we walking on this Earth for?” “Did not God play a part in our birth? Did He not want us to live free?”
Plantation Overseer, Mr. Bill:
“Be quite you (to Arminta), and get over here and whip this boy!”
“I ain’t gonna!” “You wrong Mr. Bill, he don’t deserve this meanness from you.”
Johnny sees an opportunity to get away… he breaks free and tries to run off.
Mr. Bill picks up an iron weight to throw and misses Johnny. The weight hits Arminta in the head. Arminta falls immediately and Nana Grace screams! John Tubman runs to Arminta, wraps his shirt around her head and prays. Arminta was unconscious for days, and suffered from seizures for the rest of her life.
Scene 3 Presenter-
Harriet, John, Johnny, Sarah, and Nana Grace are discussing rumors traveling around the plantation about some of them being sold.
In 1844, Ross married a free black named John Tubman and took his last name. She also changed her first name, taking her mother’s name, Harriet. In 1849, worried that she and the other slaves on the plantation were going to be sold, Tubman decided to run away.
“We need to go now, if we go at night fall, we can make it to the next county by morning.”
“Harriet you are being foolish again. We ain’t going anywhere! You are my wife and if you try to escape, I will tell Mr. Bill. The be good to us, ya hear me girl?”
“John, you will never understand, you CHOOSE to be here. You are a FREE black man and could leave if you wanted to. We are stuck here with these invisible chains, with no hope for a better tomorrow.”
“You ain’t going and that is that!” “Mr. Bill done told me, that he would not put you on the slave auction truck tomorrow.”
“And you trust him?” “You take the side of a man who holds your people captive…over me?”
“Harriet, I will not stand for this, you will not go against me on this.”
Her husband refused to go with her. She escaped with her two brothers. She followed the North Star in the sky to guide her north to freedom. Her brothers became frightened and turned back, but she continued on and reached Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, she found work as a household servant and saved her money so she could return to help others escape.
Harriet saved enough money and developed relationships with farmers and business owners along the route, who helped her hide slaves, feed them, provide them clothes and offered assistance until the journey through the slave states ended.
During the Civil War, Tubman worked for the Union army as a nurse, a cook, and a spy. Her experience leading slaves along the Underground Railroad was especially helpful because she knew the land well. She recruited a group of former slaves to hunt for rebel camps and report on the movement of the Confederate troops. In 1863, she went with Colonel James Montgomery and about 150 black soldiers on a gunboat raid in South Carolina.
As the Union Army came through and burned plantations slaves hid in the woods. However, when they realized that the gunboats could take them behind Union lines to freedom, they came running from all directions, bringing as many of their belongings as they could carry. Tubman later said, “I never saw such a sight.”
Tubman worked as a nurse during the war. Many people died from dysentery, a disease associated with terrible diarrhea. Tubman was sure she could help cure the sickness, so one night she searched the woods until she found water lilies and crane’s bill (geranium). She boiled the water lily roots and the herbs and made a bitter-tasting brew that she gave to a man who was dying and it worked; he recovered slowly. Tubman saved many people in her lifetime. On her grave her tombstone reads, “Servant of God, Well Done.”
Underground Railroad Review
Wrap up Narrator 1: In Conclusion…
- After Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery, she returned to slave-holding states many times to help other slaves escape.
- She led them safely to the northern Free states and to Canada. It was very dangerous to be a runaway slave.
- There were rewards for their capture, and ads like you see here described slaves in detail. Whenever Tubman led a group of slaves to freedom, she placed herself in great danger.
Wrap up Narrator 2:
- If anyone ever wanted to change his or her mind during the journey to freedom and return, Tubman pulled out a gun and said, “You’ll be free or die a slave!” Tubman knew that if anyone turned back, it would put her and the other escaping slaves in danger of discovery, capture or even death.
- She became so well known for leading slaves to freedom that Tubman became known as the “Moses of Her People.” Many slaves dreaming of freedom sang the spiritual song, “Go Down Moses.” Slaves hoped a savior would deliver them from slavery just as Moses had delivered the Israelites from slavery.
Wrap up Narrator 3:
- Tubman made nineteen trips to Maryland and helped three hundred people to freedom.
- During these dangerous journeys, she helped rescue members of her own family, including her 70-year-old parents.
- At one point, rewards for Tubman’s capture totaled $40,000.
Why was Harriet a hero? She had faith that God would guide her through…and He did! Her act of bravery is a testament to how strong we can be, even at times when all seems lost.
Have student(s) write their own acrostic about Harriet Tubman, based on what they have learned about her.
For more resources on creating poetry: http://www.poetryfoundation.org
Recommended Parent/Teacher Resources
- “Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman” by Dorothy Sterling
- “Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union During the Civil War” by Thomas B. Allen
- “Who Was Harrit Tubman” by Yona Zeldis McDonough and Nacy Harrison
- Library of Congress: America’s Story http://www.americaslibrary.gov/cgi-bin/page.cgi/aa/tubman
- National Geographic: The Underground Railroad: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/features/99/railroad/j1.html
- Public Broadcast Service: Tubman Biography http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p1535.html
“Professor Johnston often said that if you didn’t know history, you didn’t know anything. You were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree.”
~Michael Crichton, Timeline
May we continue to seek knowledge in all things,