African American History in Western Massachusetts

Harriet Tubman & The Underground Railroad

In addition to your literary explorations of African Americans’ creativity and contributions to U.S. literature, explore African American History Month in Western Massachusetts through the different cultural organizations and institutions that educate the public on the history of African Americans in our region.

One of the most significant pieces of New England history is the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes, stops, and places throughout 14 northern states that were established to help escaped slaves to freedom.

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Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Time for History Learning Through Music

New Album Inspires Civil War History Education Opportunity

Use music as a lens for learning about history – Lloyd Miller (of The Deedle Deedle Dees fame) has just released a new Civil War-themed album filled with traditional and original music. Using a curriculum created by Miller, as well as a wealth of other resources, families can use music as an entry point for learning about an important time period in American history.

Glory, glory, hallelujah! Lloyd Miller‘s newest album offers opportunities for learning about the Civil War through the lens of music! Titled, Sing-a-long History, Vol. I: Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!, the album is filled with a mix of traditional songs from the late 19th century, historic pieces of writing set to original music, and Civil War-themed songs created just for the album. Overall, the album provides an engaging musical examination of many of the big ideas involved in studying the Civil War – abolition, the Underground Railroad, warfare tactics, and the experience of slavery. Simply adding the album to a family CD rotation would spark lyrics-based learning, but thanks to a handful of other resources, families and educators can use Miller’s album to spark experiential, multidisciplinary learning about the Civil War! Read the rest of this entry »

HFVS Underground Railroad Episode (Podcast/Radio Show)

Listen to Podcast:

Hilltown Family Variety Show
Underground Railroad Episode

WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured Video: “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” According to American folklore, this song was a “musical” map which led fugitive slaves north to freedom. For a history of the song, see www.followthedrinkinggourd.org.


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PLAYLIST

Discover the Songs: Lyrics & History

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Underground Railroad History & Quiz

Underground Railroad Quiz
Listen to the HFVS Podcast Before Taking

Lloyd Miller from the Deedle Deedle Dees writes:

Our friends at the Hilltown Family Variety Show (HFVS) put together a special program all about the Underground Railroad. Our songs “Underground Railroad” and “Henry Box Brown” are on it. So are great versions of traditional songs by Taj Mahal and Bill Harley, a story read by Morgan Freeman and much more. Listen to it right now:

And listen carefully. That’s the only way you’ll pass the quiz we made up related to the show. The quiz is for 4th grade and up (or advanced readers of any age) and may require some extra research in addition to listening to the HFVS podcast.  Post your answers on a blog or Facebook page or public Google doc and share your link here.

Try to avoid using Wikipedia. Searching songbooks, history books, Bibles, and other tomes you hopefully have on your family’s shelves — or in your local library — will be a much more enjoyable way to find the information you don’t know already (Western MA resources available here).

  1. In our song “Underground Railroad,” what is the secret password needed to board? It’s actually three words.
  2. Name three cities or towns that were part of the Underground Railroad — and that we mention in our song about it.
    What is the “drinking gourd” described in the story read by Morgan Freeman and sung about by Taj Mahal?
  3. In the traditional song “Wade In the Water,” (Bill Harley’s version can be heard on the podcast) who, as the lyrics ask, are “these children all dressed in red” and “that young girl dressed in white?” There isn’t one right answer — tell us what you’ve read and what you think. (Hint: Many spirituals and Underground Railroad songs contained coded lyrics and secret messages)
  4. Henry “Box” Brown mailed himself to freedom in a box. In which city did he finally climb out of his box a free man?
  5. A state and a musical instrument are mentioned in “Nelly Grey” (Phil Rosenthal sings the version you hear on the podcast). Which state? Which instrument?
  6. Why was “Nelly Grey” written (Another question without one answer. We want your opinions as well as the results of your research)?
  7. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (Leadbelly and a choir close out the podcast with their version) describes a trip to heaven — or to freedom — in a real or metaphorical chariot. Which prophet left life on this Earth in a chariot according to the Old Testament?

Deedle Deedle Dee-Endorsed History Resources

HFVS Black History Month & Underground Railroad Episodes (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show

The last two installments of the Hilltown Family Variety Show have been re-broadcasts of two very popular episodes:

  1. Underground Railroad Episode
  2. Black History Month Episode

Follow the links above to listen to our archived podcasts and to see playlists, video and resources.

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD QUIZ

Our friends, The Deedle Deedle Dees, an educational rock band based in Brooklyn, NY, are currently a doing a quiz for students ages 9 and older based on our Underground Railroad Episode.  They are inviting families to listen carefully to our podcast and then to take their 8 question quiz. Listeners are asked to supplement their listening with songbooks, history and scholarly books found on their shelves at home or at the library to come up with your answers.  Everyone who tries to answer all 8 questions will receive a free copy of a Deedle Deedle Dees CD of their choice! Wow!  That’s generous!  They are giving you one week to complete the quiz with the deadline being Friday, Feb. 10th by 11:59pm (EST).  This is a fun way to get your kids to learn more about the history of the Underground Railroad along with discovering the meaning of the symbols and metaphors found in these songs about freedom.  Read the quiz and find out how to participate at Dee-Mocracy.

Museum of Springfield History Presents an Underground Railroad Lecture on Sunday

Underground Railroad Talk
Museum of Springfield History
April 11th @ 2pm

National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, historical site in Florence, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Many families emailed to let me know how much they appreciated the Underground Railroad Episode of the Hilltown Family Variety Show as a supplement to their children’s studies. Another opportunity for older students to learn about the Underground Railroad will be this Sunday, April 11th in Springfield, MA. At 2pm, the new Museum of Springfield History will host a talk titled “The Underground Railroad in Western Massachusetts.” The program will be held in the museum’s SIS Hall and is free with the price of museum admission. Museum passes may be available to check out from your local library.

The talk will be presented by historian Steve Strimer of the David Ruggles Center for Early Florence History and Underground Railroad Studies. The Ruggles Center, named for an early abolitionist, documents the movement and settlement of fugitive slaves in the Connecticut River corridor of Massachusetts. Strimer will discuss what has been preserved and uncovered about the Underground Railroad, particularly in Florence and Springfield.

For older kids studying the California Gold Rush, there will be a talk “Springfield and the California Gold Rush” on April 25th.

The series is co-sponsored by the Pioneer Valley History Network, a coalition of historical museums, libraries, and societies. The Museum of Springfield History is located on the Quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street in downtown Springfield. Free parking is available in the Edwards Street parking lots. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $12.50 for adults, $9 for seniors and college students, $6.50 for children 3-17, and free for children under three and museum members. Springfield residents are free with proof of address. The fee provides admission to all four Springfield Museums at the Quadrangle. For information, call 413-263-6800 or visit http://www.springfieldmuseums.org.

HFVS Underground Railroad Episode (Podcast/Radio Show)

Listen to Podcast:

Hilltown Family Variety Show
Underground Railroad Episode

Saturday from 9-10am
Originally airing on January 23rd, 2010
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA


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PLAYLIST

Discover the Songs: Lyrics & History

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Giveaway: (DVD) March On! The Day Martin Changed the World

March On!
The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World
… and more stories about African American history

This January, as America prepares to commemorate the birthday of our country’s most iconic civil rights leader and Black History Month, families can learn more about Martin Luther King, Jr. and other heroes of African American history in an entertaining and educational new Scholastic Storybook Treasure DVD release, March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World, which includes more than an hour of inspiring true stories.

Hilltown Families is offering one winning family a copy of this newly release DVD.  Deadline to enter to win is Monday, 01/18/10 @ 7pm. Details below.

ABOUT THE TITLE STORY

The lead story, March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World, is a moving account of the day when Martin Luther King, Jr. presented his “I Have a Dream” speech to the world during the civil rights March on Washington in1963. The story is told by Dr. King’s sister, Dr. Christine King Ferris, with colorful animation of London Ladd’s illustrations. As a bonus, the DVD includes an interview with the author, Dr. King Ferris. As the American Library Association noted about the production, “Lynn Whitfield’s sensitive and stirring narration is enriched with audio clips of Mahalia Jackson’s powerful song, crowd noises, and clips from MLK’s speech. Music by Michael Bacon sets the tone for the film and seamlessly accommodates songs of the era.”

ABOUT THE DVD

Three more historical tales follow King’s amazing, true-life story, each carefully adapted from award-winning children’s books: Martin’s Big Words (adapted from the book by Doreen Rapport, illustrated by Michael Collier), Rosa (written and narrated by Nikki Giovanni, illustrations by Michael Sporn), Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad (based on the book by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson). Together the stories have won 15 awards, including the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children’s Video, Caldecott Honor Award, and selection as a American Library Association Notable Video. Celebrity narration by Whitfield, Michael Clark Duncan and others, plus engaging music, make these tales come to life for a new generation of Americans.

HOW TO WIN

Your chance to win March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World from Scholastic Storybook Treasures is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!

To win simply:

  1. POST A COMMENT BELOW (one entry per family) and be sure to tell us your
  2. FULL NAME and where you
  3. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) PLEASE include your town and state to be eligible.
  4. ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  5. We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Monday, 01/18/10 @ 7pm (EST).

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