Welcome, Educators! A central purpose of this website is to help teachers, particularly at the high school level and above, utilize the information in the book Embattled Freedom. As you well know, the Underground Railroad and the American Civil War have enormous and overlapping importance in our nation’s history. Embattled Freedom can be a supplemental resource as you try to bring those topics to life for students. It literally brings the material home through its focus on local events and grassroots attitudes of the era right in northeastern Pennsylvania.

  • The website and the book contain a trove of complex texts that will enable students to conduct rigorous, close and careful reading and analysis. These exercises in higher-order thinking can help you meet state standards regarding History, Social Studies, Civics, and Writing requirements. Here are links to those some of those standards.
    For History/Social Studies:
    • Standard – CC.8.5.11-12.CEvaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
    • Standard – CC.8.5.11-12.I – Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
    For Writing:
    For Civics and Government:
    • Standard – 5.1.12.D Evaluate state and federal powers based on significant documents and other critical sources, e.g., Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, Pennsylvania Constitution
    • Standard – 5.1.12.EAnalyze and assess the rights of people as written in the PA Constitution and the US Constitution.
  • Be sure to view the five all-important learning segments displayed at the bottom of the website. They highlight central themes of the book, themes such as race, prejudice, civil disobedience, constitutional rights, and the tension between federalism and state’s rights. The segments are fully narrated and illustrated for students, and each has a related quiz that students can take. To receive a copy of the quizzes and the answer key, send an email here. Once we confirm you’re a teacher, we’ll email the material to you.
  • The website is available as a free service to you. In addition, the book Embattled Freedom contains the full treatment of this history, locally focused and thoroughly documented. Teachers are invited to purchase single or multiple copies of the book for their classrooms. Click here for more information.
  • In addition to the quizzes, the online material and/or the book provides rich opportunity for essays and independent research projects. For example, here are three salient essay topics:
    1. Construct an argument for why a law-abiding white Northerner might disobey the congressionally enacted and legal 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.
    2. What other social movements resemble the anti-slavery movement, and in what way?
    3. If you were a black person in the 1850s, what would your response be to someone who felt southern slavery must be accommodated in order to hold the nation together?
  • Are you working with students on independent projects? Here are three suggested assignments for them:
    1. Determine who your area’s congressman was in the 1850s and research what his views were on abolition and slavery.
    2. Read the Fleetville ‘Crackerbarrel Congress’ manifesto (picture no. 2 on the website’s image gallery, click to view) and respond to its denunciations of Abraham Lincoln and abolitionism.
    3. Read the contemporary commentaries about the Emancipation Proclamation that appeared in one of your area’s old newspapers. The proclamation was issued Jan. 1, 1863, after having been discussed for months, so you’re very likely to find stories published during that period. Evaluate the accuracy and content of the articles.
  • There also are ample cross-curricular connections. For instance, a Science teacher might focus on the pseudo-scientific ideas of the day about fixed racial differences and rankings that permeated both the academy and public attitudes. Geography can be brought to bear by looking at settlement patterns (New England Yankees brought abolitionism with them) and at how the rivers and canals facilitated the slaves’ flight northward.
  • Teachers are invited to submit relevant student essays or reports for display right here on the website. Contact us to discuss the specific work and how we might present it.

If you’re interested in having Embattled Freedom author Jim Remsen visit your school to discuss his research methods and findings, send him an email.

Finally, to help you in your work, here are links to good online instructional materials about the Underground Railroad and the U.S. Colored Troops: