Educator Features

Underground Railroad
map of the different routes slaves used to get to freedom
They slept by day, traveled by night. On foot, through water, by whatever means necessary, they fled with one goal in mind: Freedom.

Image to right: Slaves followed a secret route along the Tombigbee River through Tennessee and northward across the Ohio River to freedom. Credit: NASA

A collaboration between NASA and the National Park Service, this educational video details how the sciences of astronomy and geography guided slaves to freedom in the 1800s, and how the technologies of satellites and geographic information systems are being used to locate and visualize the secret paths they traveled.

Using the North Star as a compass, freedom-seeking slaves went from safe house to safe house along the Underground Railroad, an intricate network of escape routes away from the slave-ridden South. This video explains the role celestial navigation played in the Railroad's success, and highlights the importance of modern technologies in reconstructing the exact routes and terrain of the Railroad.

Running time is 34 minutes. Questions for discussion and activities for learning are included at the end of the video.

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Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies