Modern Abolition: Getting Students Engaged

Getting Students Engaged in Modern Abolition

The fight for freedom is still taking place today.  As educators we have to provide educational opportunities for students to become actively engaged with the history that will in turn inspire activism to end modern slavery. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center provides pre and post-visit lessons and activities to ensure that a student’s journey of internalizing the difficult content connected to historical and contemporary slavery is understandable.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in partnership with the U.S. Department of State created a short film Journey to Freedom to highlight the parallels of the lives of two men sold into slavery over 150 years a part in a very similar fashion- Solomon Northup in 1841 and Vannak Prum in 2006. The story also examines the communities of abolitionists from yesterday and today who fight to free men and women like Solomon Northup and Vannak Prum. This short film is available on the Freedom Center website for educators to use in their classrooms by clicking here. After viewing the film, we recommend dividing your students into groups to discuss the film using guiding questions such as, “How are the lives of Solomon Northup and Vannak Prum similar?”, “How did the community work together to help them seek freedom?”, “How would students today be able to tell if this is happening in our community?”, or “If this is happening in our community today, what could we as students do to bring about an awareness to the general public?”

The mission of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is to reveal stories of freedom’s heroes, from the era of the Underground Railroad to contemporary times, challenging and inspiring everyone to take courageous steps for freedom today. We believe that sharing this story and follow up activity about the lives of Solomon Northup and Vannak Prum, will help to change student’s understanding of slavery and challenge them to become activists to help end modern day slavery. For more lesson ideas click here.

-Kieli Ferguson