By the end of this lesson, students will:

  • discuss the impact that the Underground Railraod actually had on slavery
  • review the impact that the continental railroad had on the United States, its economic development, and how it led to issues in the Kansas-Nebraska territories 
  • examine the founding of the Republican and Know-Nothing Parties.


DC Content Power Standards :
1.6, 1.7, 1.9 Influences on American Revolution, Formation of Constitution, Effects of Civil War and Reconstruction
DC Content Supporting Standards:
DCPS 11.1.9: Explain the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction and of the Industrial Revolution, including demographic shifts and the emergence in the late 19th century of the United States as a world power. (G, P, E)
DC Historical and Social Studies Skills Standards:
HCI.1, HCI.3, HCI.7 Compare Past to Present, Connecting Events and Trends, Meaning/Impact of Historical Events
Common Core Reading for Literacy in Social Studies Standards:
RH.11-12.1, 2 , 4, 10: Cite textual evidence, summarize, vocab, read complex texts
Common Core Writing for Literacy in Social Studies Standards:
WHST.11-12.8a, 8c, 5a Use print and digital sources, Determine value of a source, Brainstorming, Outlining


[Here, you should include a list of primary and secondary sources as well as other materials you will be using in the class. Attach all handouts and readings you will use for this lesson to the curricular unit.]

Cleveland Gazette: The Underground Railraod

Download this file

Warm Up

Causes of the Civil War--Popular Sovereignty and Westward Expansion.

Sit down and get out your notebooks. Please take notes on the short video we will be watching: Causes of the Civil War--Popular Sovereignty and Westward Expansion.

New Material

With your group, write down everything you know about the Underground Railroad

  • How many slaves do you think actually ran off with the help of the Underground Railroad?

Because of the secrecy of the Underground Railroad, written records of those who took this route to freedom do not exist, nor do the numbers of the escapees. It is believed to have been in existence as early as 1837; some sources state even earlier.

Historians and scholars have estimated that between 40,000 and 100,000 slaves escaped on the Underground Railroad. This number never presented a serious threat to the institution of slavery, but the escape stories filled slave owners with dread and fear. A former escaped slave, Harriet Tubman, has been credited with leading more than 300 slaves to freedom herself and making 19 trips to the South to do so, even with the threat of a $40,000 reward offered for her capture, dead or alive. Harriet was dubbed The Moses of Her People <http://www.osblackhistory.com/underground.php&gt>

Cleveland Gazette: The Underground Railraod

Download this file
Looking at the advertisment handout, list its biases. What purpose does the ad give for the creation of this book?


Students will play the For Your Information Game. Using their notes and their outlines, they will discuss the political impact of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

  • The rules are simple. The prompt is: The Kansas-Nebraska Act led to …
  • The instructor choses a student who completes the sentence and then that student chooses another student to continue.
  •  At some point, a student may inject a discussion question.

Topics to be covered will include:

  • The shatterng of the Whig Party
  • The rise of the Free-Soilers who combined with abolitionist Democrats and Whigs to form the Republican Party
  • The stance of the Republican Party in regards to slavery in the South and in general
  • The rise of the Know-Nothing Party
  • The Presidential election of 1856


Participation in the game and there will be a notebook check of Discussion Questions.

Exit Slip: What is one thing that you learned today that never occurred to you before? 

Closure and Reflection

We are seeing divisions between North and South, East and West, and even political parties. Tomorrow, we will be discussing events that will truly spark the Civil War; The Dred Scott Case and John Brown's Raid.

For Homework, please take a look at the video The Dred Scott Decision. Take notes and write at least two (2) discussion questions. 

Then find a primary or secondary source to share with the class when we next meet.

The Dred Scott Decision

Please view this video and take notes. Then find a primary or secondary source to share with the class when we next meet.