The Road to Freedom

"Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt´s land
Tell ol´ Pharaoh, Let my peoples go."

Introduction | The Task | Character Roles | Procedure | Resources | Assessment


You hear the call, just like others before you. Moses is coming to take you to freedom. You know you can trust her, but still you're afraid. Traps lay in your way and there will be danger at every turn until you reach Canada. And Moses would rather shoot you than risk everyone getting caught. Are you ready to travel the road to freedom?

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The Task

It's a dangerous task you have chosen to undertake. The road to freedom is not easy, and along the way there will be many tense moments. In this assignment, you will be exploring the many sides of slavery and abolition as a result of The Fugitive Slave Bill of 1850 by looking through the eyes of a character who lived during that time. Then you will be writing a brief piece of historical fiction that explains your character's perspective on slavery and his or her involvement in the Underground Railroad. This piece must demonstrate an understanding of your character's motivation through mood, internal monologue, and descriptive details.

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Character Roles

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Step 1: Overview (one to two class periods)

1. Print out and read the Historical Background to gain a brief understanding of the two sides of slavery. Also, print out and read the Road to Freedom WebQuest Rubric to understand how you will be graded.

2. Witness a slave auction to gain an understanding of some of the perspectives of the time. As you read, take notes on index cards regarding the positions of the various people at the auction.

3. Follow in the footsteps of a runaway slave or travel the Underground Railroad to learn the perspective of a runaway slave.

Step 2: Research (two to three class periods)

1. Review the description of your character from the list of Character Roles. On a sheet of paper, brainstorm a list of questions based on your character's role that will help you complete your online research and create an effective character.

2. Print out the Character Role: Graphic Organizer. Visit the sites listed in the Resources and complete the graphic organizer using the information you find at these sites.

3. Return to the questions you came up with and answer them to help you determine your character's position and views.

Step 3 (one class period plus one night's homework)

1. When you have completed your research, return to your book discussion group.

2. As a group, use your notes from the Character Role: Graphic Organizer, the Character Sketch Handout, the Character Motivation Brainstorming sheet, and the novel you have read to develop your character and the setting of your story. While all members of the group do not need to have the same character role, you should work together as a team so that all characters and settings are accurately developed based on what you have learned through your research.

3. Complete the final draft of your written character sketch and illustration, as needed on the Character Sketch Handout.

Step 4 (five class periods for completion of rough draft to final draft, with work at home)

1. Now that you have brainstormed the background, setting, and character, open the writing scenario by clicking on your character role to find the situation your character will face.

Use your notes and research to write a 1 to 3 page story that:

  • Creates a specific mood (emotion)

  • Incorporates internal monologue and dialogue that provide the reader with insight into the character's views

  • Develops a detailed description of character and setting (snapshot)

  • Uses slow motion (exploded moments) to build suspense

3. Revise, proofread, and edit your final draft.

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Your grade for this assignment is made up of the following:

1. The research and answers you generate using this information

2. Your ability to work with your group

3. The final historical fiction piece

Be sure you have printed out and read the Road to Freedom WebQuest Rubric in order to understand the specifics of your grade.

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Copyright 2005 IRA/NCTE for use on
"The Road to Freedom WebQuest" written by Beth O'Connor.
Last updated: August 17, 2005