It Happened on the Underground Railroad -
30 general chapter questions:

  1. Why was it so impossible for slave holders to imagine a reversal of roles where they would be the slaves and the slaves be the masters? Would this have affected how slaves were treated?


  1. Runaway slaves often had to leave behind loved ones. Would you have supported your spouse to escape if it left you behind in slavery? How about your children?


  1. The elitist attitude of European male land owners came with them to the new colonies in America. How did/does the dominance of this white-male ruling class affect how history is written?


  1. Which story moved you the most and why?


  1. What accounts for some people being heartless while others feel empathy towards others?


  1. Which character in the book can you identify with the most and why?


  1. Involvement in the Underground Railroad was once seen as illegal, but is now viewed as a noble cause. When did this shift of popular opinion occur?


  1. What character trait(s) helped the slaves to survive living in bondage?


  1. Twelve U.S presidents owned slaves and eight presidents owned slaves while in office. How much did these facts affect the country’s attitude towards slavery? How did it hinder the abolitionists’ cause?


  1. Which character did you feel the most contempt for and why?


  1. Do you think that a nation’s history written solely about the contributions of one group of people is told through a narrow, telescopic lens? Why or why not?


  1. What surprised you most about the book? Any character in particular?


  1. Historically there has been an overemphasis of white abolitionist activity and an under representation of black agency in connection with the workings of the Underground Railroad. Why is this so?


  1. Anti-slavery sentiment was evident in the country as early as the 1830s and continued until slavery was abolished in 1865. What was the most important cause of its growth?


  2. In 1848 an abolitionist named Captain Daniel Drayton said that, “Nobody in this country will admit, for a moment, that there can be any such thing as property in a white man. The institution of slavery could not last for a day, if the slaves were all white.” How would the public’s reaction to that statement in1848 differ compared to today?


  1. In your opinion what character in the book risked their life and liberty the most to free others?


  1. Slaves represented a substantial monetary investment for many Southerners. Do you think that the Civil War and the fight over slavery could have been avoided if the U.S. Government would have compensated slave owners for releasing their slaves? Why or why not?


  1. What means of escape would you have been most likely to attempt had you been a runaway slave?


  1. If your family owned slaves and a neighbor was known to harbor runaway slaves would you or wouldn’t report them?


  1. Former slaves who joined the anti-slavery lecture circuit put their own safety and freedom in jeopardy. Would you have become such a speaker after escaping?


  1. How was it possible for slave parents to bring up their children to accept their lot in life? Was it dangerous to teach their children that they deserved to be free? How so?


  1. What is it about a person that makes them want to reach out to others in need of help? What type of work do you think a “modern day abolitionist” might be involved in?


  1. What effect did runaway slaves have on those who stayed behind on the plantation? Could you leave your own children behind in slavery and run away?


  1. Were some of the characters in the book reckless in their zeal to help others achieve freedom? If so, who in particular? Would you have run away if it jeopardized your own family’s safety?


  1. How did religion play a part in the lives of both the slave owners and the slaves? How was the Bible used to the slaves owners advantage? Why were the slave owners not able to see that the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” applies to everyone?


  2. How did the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 affect slave owners? Runaway slaves? Freed slaves? The general public?


  1. Proximity to free soil increased the chances for successfully escaping. Is there a certain number of miles that would have precluded you from attempting to escape?


  1. Why were single, young, male slaves the most successful in running away? As far as disguising themselves as the opposite sex, who had it easier, males or females?


  1. Describe what it would take for a light-skinned slave to impersonate a white person and attempt to escape. If caught would the means of escape be likely to raise the ire of the slave owner? Why or why not?


  1. How did the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850 bolster the determination of activists involved in the Underground Railroad? In what way might people have felt more sympathetic to the slaves?