Historic time period: 1801–1877
Slave Life and the Underground Railroad
Between the American Revolution and the end of the Civil War, millions of Africans were brought to America as slaves.
Men, women, and children from the west coast of Africa were captured and forced onto slave ships that sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to North America.
During the long two-month trip, many became sick and died. Those who survived were sold at auction to the highest bidder. Families were separated never to be reunited.
Many West Africans were sold to plantation owners who cultivated rice in the marshy lowlands of South Carolina. Planters preferred West Africans because they were experienced rice farmers who could make the plantations successful.
Slaves were treated as property. Some masters required slaves to wear tags that identified them when they were away from the plantation. Thousands tried to escape to freedom over the secret routes known as the Underground Railroad.
You can learn more about slave life and the Underground Railroad by reading Follow the Drinking Gourd, and by trying out the activities below.
Read This Book
You can learn more about slavery and life on a plantation by exploring these books. Click on the book titles below for more information, or visit our complete bibliography.
More Recommended Books
- Barefoot: Escape on the Underground Railroad by Pamela Duncan Edwards
- If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
- Life on a Plantation by Bobbie Kalman
- Minty: a Story of Young Harriet Tubman by Alan Schroeder
- Now Let Me Fly: The Story of a Slave Family by Dolores Johnson
- Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco
Read Follow the Drinking Gourd
Meet Peg Leg Joe and learn the song that guides a family of slaves to freedom. Then, discuss a few questions about the story.Download the PDF »
Study in School
Documents leave us clues to the past. Study a document to figure out what it was used for, and what it can tell us about the past.Download the PDF »
Using Rice Plantation Tools
Learn From Objects
Study pictures of rice plantation tools. How do you think the tools were used?Download the PDF »