February is Black History Month, and it marks the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Using the song "Follow the Drinking Gourd" (performed here by Elizabeth Bushey) as a starting point, we dived into the history of the Underground Railroad, a secret network of slave escape routes in the 19th century. It led us to the history of many heroic people like Harriet Tubman, Henry "Box" Brown, Peg Leg Joe, and William Still, and the critical role Canada played as a safe haven for the exodus of black slaves in the south.
The book "Follow the Drinking Gourd" by Jeanette Winter is an excellent rendition of Peg Leg Joe's song in a story format, revealing the secret codes within the lyrics. We looked at many great websites like PBS and National Geographic on the topic, but Pathways to Freedom: Maryland & the Underground Railroad has the most interactive site. Serena particularly enjoyed the opportunity to create her own secret quilt message. Folklore suggests that slaves used quilt patterns and symbols as signals on their path to freedom.
MY QUILT BLOCK NAME: "Windows"
MY QUILT BLOCK IS A GOOD SYMBOL BECAUSE: it looks like a window on a train going to freedom!
MY QUILT BLOCK NAME: "Pure Beauty"
MY QUILT BLOCK IS A GOOD SYMBOL BECAUSE: it reminds runaway slaves of the beauty they will see in free country!
MY QUILT BLOCK NAME: "Diamond of Canada"
MY QUILT BLOCK IS A GOOD SYMBOL BECAUSE: it points runaway slaves to Canada!
"Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky" by Faith Ringgold
"Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad" by Ellen Levine