Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Faith In Action: Quakers and the Underground Railroad

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Display the National Geographic website on the Underground Railroad on the computer.
  • Make copies of Leader Resource 1 to pass around for viewing.
  • Optional: Read more about Quakers and the Underground Railroad at and How Stuff Works.

Description of Activity

Youth learn about the Quaker connection to the Underground Railroad.

Start by asking participants what they know about the Underground Railroad. Share with participants that Quakers played a prominent role in running the Underground Railroad, the system whereby people who were enslaved were helped to escape to northern states and Canada. The abolitionist movement - the movement to end slavery - began with the ministry of the Quakers, preaching abolition throughout the states and territories in the early 1800s.

Pass around copies of Leader Resource 1, which shows the routes taken in the Underground Railroad. The routes start in Southern U.S. states and end in Canada or Northern States.

Let participants take turns with the interactive site The Underground Railroad: The Journey, created by National Geographic.

Process the activity with these questions:

  • Though Quakers were some of the earliest members of the abolitionist movement and active in the Underground Railroad, in the early days of the country’s history, many Quakers were also slave traders and holders. Does this surprise you?
  • The interactive site tells us that most slaves were encouraged to keep going into Canada. Why? Does this surprise you?
  • What else did you learn from the interactive site?
  • What happened to Thomas Garrett, the Quaker who was arrested for helping runaway slaves? What fate met runaway slaves who were captured? Though the punishment for a white Quaker helping an African American slave was nowhere near as severe as the punishment for the slave, do you still think people who helped the Underground Railroad were brave? Many Quakers believe war is immoral. Many slaves were victims of war in Africa. How do you think this influenced Quakers’ feelings about slavery? What role did faith play in convincing many Quakers to object to slavery?