Students re-enact life on the Underground Railroad - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Students re-enact life on the Underground Railroad

November 23, 2004

Worth County - In 1849, a slave named Harriet Tubman ran away from her plantation and started a life-long journey to help other slaves escape. The underground railroad was a slave's only way to freedom. But, was the long, dangerous trek worth the it? Wednesday, some south Georgia students answered that questioned as they brought history to life.

Worth County Middle School students became slaves. "These are mighty fine looking slaves. Can I buy one or two?," asked teacher Brenda Arnold as she played the role of an plantation owner. "I'll pay fifty dollars for her," she told a slave trader.

The eighth graders are reliving the antebellum South, and each has a role to play. "We have overseers, conductors, and people that are selling the slaves," said student Megan Norton.

There are two plantations; Marsh Farms in Thomas County and Cloverland in Troup County. Both existed more than a century ago, and the plantation owners are watching out and trying to stop their slaves from escaping.

The escaped slaves find help on the Underground Railroad, a network of slaves and abolitionists across the east coast. "They have different stations on the underground railroad that move them towards freedom," said Arnold.

The first stop is Jacob's Farm in Liberty County where slaves can rest. And, then it's on to Savannah - the home of the first black church. "At the black church in Savannah, there's a bible. If the bible was open to Moses taking the slaves out of Egypt, then it was safe to come into that church. But if it was at Moses with the ten commandments, it wasn't safe and the slaves needed to move on," said Arnold.

A code passed by whispers or even hidden in songs helped slaves decipher friend from foe. "Every time I wave this handkerchief or give the slaves a signal, I linger them on to another station. If a quilt is hanging up, they know it's a safe house for them," said student Joi Brown.

"One of codes is 'I saw wild geese flying last night. Did you see them?' That would mean there were runaway slaves in the area," recalled Arnold.

The escaped slaves must watch out for bounty hunters as they made they're way north. "They will go all the way to Murphy's Orchid in New York where they can get on a train if they choose to and go all the way to Canada to a new community and free life." A free life that these students can appreciate a little more thanks to a day outside the classroom. "We're living the experience," said Arnold.

The eighth graders spent last week learning about the antebellum South. They will find much of the historical information learned in classroom and during today's re-enactment on the state standardized test in April.

Posted at 4:15PM by kathryn.murchison@walb.com

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