The Underground Railroad in Southern Illinois

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Picture explaining the use of our GIS Map

The Underground Railroad in Southern Illinois

Facilitate students’ connections of evidence to the claims they construct about the past. Historians and historical archaeologists have come to very different conclusions about the Underground Railroad in southernmost Illinois. Using evidence scholars from both disciplines have collected and analyzed, students can draw their own conclusions.

Using the resources listed below and 3D scans of artifacts found at Miller Grove, have students cite evidence that supports their answers to the following essential questions: 1) How violent was the southernmost region of Illinois prior to the Civil War? 2) To what extent was there an underground slavery resistance movement in southernmost Illinois?


Miller Grove Introduction Activity: Historians’ Perspectives on the Underground Railroad in Southern Illinois Introduce students to historians’ different perspectives on the Underground Railroad and whether it existed in the region of Illinois that bordered two slave states: Missouri and Kentucky.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 GIS (Online) Map: Underground Railroad and African American Communities in Southern Illinois   Explore “content” (data layers) such as the locations of African American communities, runaway slave notices, incidents of violence, and shifts in demographics in this interactive GIS map to support or refute the claim that there were “frontline operatives” in southernmost Illinois who assisted those fleeing slavery.               

 Newspaper Excerpts: Kidnappings in Southern Illinois, 1840-1860 Read accounts of kidnappings in the region and use the GIS map to identify the locations of these acts of violence and others against African Americans in southern Illinois.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Newspaper Excerpts: Editor’s Threats to Reverend West, 1860 Read accounts of public threats made against a white abolitionist minister in southern Illinois.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Miller Grove Artifact Activity Use this activity to guide students’ analysis of artifacts found during recent archeological digs at Miller Grove, a free-black community in antebellum southern Illinois with suspected ties to the Underground Railroad. Students will explore additional documents to support their claims about these artifacts and make inferences about the dig site.                                                                                      

 Activity Resource: Artifact and Primary Source Images Access photographs of artifacts uncovered at Miller Grove and copies of the primary sources students can use as evidence to support their claims about these objects.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 Activity Resource: 3D-Scanned Artifact Files Download and print these stl files so students can analyze replicas of the artifacts included in this activity.