Welcome teachers! If you’re here, you’re probably thinking and planning a unit on Underground Railroad history. Materials listed in this section are age-appropriate, instruction-friendly and of the best quality.

Scroll down to explore a rich variety of materials in print, on-line, graphic/visual, video and audio formats. Print resources are separated into General, Wisconsin-specific, Civil War, and Primary Source categories. Websites are categorized as General Underground Railroad History, Wisconsin, Artifacts and Documents, and Civil War. Finally, sources for collections of classroom curriculum materials, videos, primary source documents, photos, and music are listed.

Print Resources

Please note: interlibrary loan requires 1-2 months lead time

Freedom Train North: Stories of the Underground Railroad in Wisconsin by Julia Pferdehirt. Collection of true stories from primary sources of people, places, and events on Wisconsin’s underground railroad.

The Underground Railroad by Charles Blockson. Prentice-Hall NY, 1987. Eyewitness narratives

Slavery Time When I Was Chillun; by Belinda Hurmence. First-person narratives. In the 1930s, elderly men and women recall their childhood spent in slavery.

From Slave Ship to Freedom Road by Julius Lester. True and fictional stories, history, thoughts to ponder, powerful, amazing illustrations. A sensitive, superb book.

The Last Safe House by Barbara Greenwood. Well done combination of historical sidebars and short articles interspersed with an ongoing fictional story young readers will love.

No More: Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance by Doreen Rappaport and Shane Evans. Songs, beautiful verse, and true stories told well.

Freedom River by Doreen Rappaport. Based on a true story of a free African American abolitionist who helped people running from slavery in Ohio.

They Came in Chains: The Story of the Slave Ships by Milton Melzer. The Middle Passage; the story of slave ships crossing the Atlantic.

Many Thousand Gone by Virginia Hamilton. Probably the finest book of African American history for young readers. Virginia Hamilton’s usual steller writing and imagery.

Escape from Slavery: Five Journeys to Freedom by Doreen Rappaport. Harper-Collins, NY 1991. Five fictionalized accounts of actual escapes.

Get on Board: The Story of the Underground Railroad by Jim Haskins. Scholastic, NY, 1993. Contains timeline, anecdotes, reward posters.

Our Song, Our Toil by Michele Stepto. Milbrook Press, 1994. Written using interviews with former slaves gathered in the 1930’s.

Escape from Slavery by Doreen Rappaport. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. Fictionalized versions of true stories including Henry “Box”Brown, William Still’s rescue of a slave in Philadelphia, Ellen and William Craft’s marvelous “masquerade” escape, and the story of how Selena and Cornelia Jackson walked right past their master – dressed as boys!

Anthony Burns: The Defeat and Triumph of a Fugitive Slave by Virginia Hamilton. Knopf, 1988. A true story of one man’s forced return to slavery. *see Many Thousand Gone above.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. Her own story.

Wagon Wheels by Barbra Brenner. Demco Media, Madison (800) 448-8939. I Can Read book based on an actual incident; Osage Indians saved the lives of freedmen in Kansas just after the emancipation.

Thee Hannah by Marguerite de Angeli. Story of Quaker child for young readers

Reminiscences of Levi Coffin by Levi Coffin. Available on interlibrary loan. True stories of the “reputed president of the underground railroad” who helped thousands of fugitives to freedom.

The Bill of Rights by Milton Meltzer. Sixth grade and older. Clear, excellent presentation of the legal issue of civil rights in America with discussion of slavery and other rights-related issues.

Walking the Road to Freedom by Jeri Ferris. Sojourner Truth’s story.

Escape from Slavery: The Boyhood of Frederick Douglass in His Own Words edited by Michael McCurdy. Douglass’ own words

Now is Your Time: The African-American Struggle for Freedom by Walter Dean Myers. Thematic history for older readers.

Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers by Jean Fritz. Biography of the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Civil War

Bull Run by Paul Fleishman. Collection of fictional characters at one Civil War battle.

The Boys’ War by Jim Murphy. Lives of very young soldiers in the Civil War

Charlie Skedaddle by Patricia Beatty. Civil War story.

Behind Rebel Lines: The Incredible Story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy by Seymour Reit. Union soldier “Frank” was really a woman! Read her story here.

About Primary Sources and Oral History

Photos That Make U.S. History vol 1 by Edward Wakin. How photos have preserved history.

Freedom’s Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen Levine

Wisconsin Period Histories and Books:
available via interlibrary loan or reference

The History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Volume 11: Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1881.

A History of Racine and Kenosha Counties. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1879.

The History of Walworth County: Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1882.

(FTN) Eliza Chappell Porter: A Memoir, by Mary Porter. Chicago: Fleming Revell, 1880. (available on Interlibrary Loan.)

(FTN) Slave Narratives. Published by Library of America, 2000. volume 114 of the Library of America’s publications. Includes the whole story of Jacob Green’s life.

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General Websites for Underground Railroad History This excellent site provides good visuals including period photographs, general history. The text may be difficult for some fourth grader readers. Photos and short biographies of leading abolitionists are interesting. Milton Historical Society, Wisconsin Underground Railroad Landmark. Site includes many quotes and stories from Wisconsin UGRR history. See Field Trips. For information call 608/868-7772.

Sources for reward posters:

Timeline of African American history

American Memories collection of the Library of Congress. Search this website for topics like “ex-slave narratives,” or “reward posters” or slavery AND photos. For example, search for “emancipation proclamation” and you’ll find an 1863 sketch of Lincoln writing this famous speech. Keep scrolling down and you’ll find letters between Frederick Douglass and his sons, then volunteers in the Union Army or a photo of African American soldiers listening to the emancipation proclamation being read.


Joshua Glover’s Rescue: This Wisconsin story is included in Freedom Train North.

These websites offer primary source documents and other information:

Documents, Artifacts, etc

Copies of reward posters and anti-slavery broadsides are available on-line at

Other photos links here: slave auction, slavery general Chicago Historical Society website: wonderful photos of artifacts like slave auction or reward posters, leg irons used to restrain fugitive slaves. Click on “Online projects” then “Arti-facts”

Civil War

Civil War Anti-Slavery Efforts:
Photos of fugitive slaves during the Civil War
At this website, click on Search. Search for contraband AND “fugitive slaves”. Click on "Gallery view" You’ll find period photos of people escaped from slavery at Union Army camps.

Text of the Emancipation Proclamation can be found at:

G reat collection of photographs about the Civil War:

Photos of soldiers from Civil War
Click on “Stories from Camp and Field” or “Veterans’ Biographies” for some great first-person stories, letters, bits from diaries, photos, etc. of Wisconsin soldiers.

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Audio, Video, and Other Resources

Classroom Resource Kits for Wisconsin teachers available for rental from Living History Press, 7426 Elmwood Avenue, Middleton, WI 53562 608/836-7426; . A “unit in a box” for classroom study of underground railroad history. Includes “Steal Away” CD of slavery era songs, UGRR video. Storytelling video from Milton House in Wisconsin, primary source documents and photos, maps, current books*, reprints of National Geographic article, 12 spiral bound collections of primary source documents linked to each story and subject in Freedom Train North and teacher resource guide..

* Freedom Train North (5 cps); Many Thousand Gone; No More: Songs of Slave Resistance; Freedom River; Slavery Time When I Was Chillun’; Escape from Slavery; From Slave Ship to Freedom Road; The Last Safe House.

Music of the Underground Railroad by Kim and Reggie Harris. This excellent collection is a good introduction to any unit study on Underground Railroad history. The video and CD (Steal Away), include numerous code songs used to keep underground railroad activity secret.
(P.O. Box 18871, Philadelphia, PA 19119; 215/548-1679)

Photos of everything from newspaper clippings to abolitionist leaders to freedom papers and bills of sale from slave auctions are available from The Picture Bank, 6631 Wakefield Drive, Alexandria VA 22307; 703/768-8987. Owner Frank Wood will actually assemble a packet of topic-related photos on the subject of the underground railroad, slavery, black soldiers in the Civil War, etc. etc. upon request. Prices are reasonable.

Bloodhounds and a Barrel, a short, readers’ theatre play based on the rescue of Caroline Quarles is available from Living History Press, 7426 Elmwood Avenue, Middleton, WI 53562, 608/836-7462.
The script is accessible to skilled fourth and fifth graders but most appropriate for middle-schoolers and above.

"Stand the Storm." A well-done, student-friendly video telling the story of Joshua Glover done for Wisconsin Public Television. Content graspable for middle school and older. Available at $9.95 from the Wisconsin Public Television 53701. Evey Fleming, 608/263-4575 for orders. to view information about the video.

Treasure Boxes: Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum in Madison. 608/264 6086. “Treasure boxes" with Civil War artifacts.

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