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Fifth-graders experience the Underground Railroad
Students feel excitement, fear as they run for ‘freedom’
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Courtesy Photo: Fifth-grade students at Callaway Elementary got the chance to see what it was like for runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. Above, faculty and staff of the school are dressed as conductors and bounty hunters during the time of the Underground Railroad.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Fifth-grade students at Callaway Elementary were recently treated to, not only a good time, but a first-hand feeling of what it was like to be a runaway slave on the Underground Railroad.

Faculty and staff of the school created a reenactment of the Underground Railroad that consisted of a trek through the fields and grounds of the school campus.

The students were dropped off at the school by their parents at 6:30 p.m. The students were then met by their teachers and Principal Jason Guilliams, who were all dressed as conductors of the Underground Railroad during the 1830s.

The night began in the darkened gymnasium with two storytellers taking on the roles of slaves from West Africa. The ladies told the story of their journey from West Africa to a plantation in Virginia, where they longed for freedom.

"We wanted students to experience a flight to freedom," said Carolyn Sharpe, library media specialist at Callaway Elementary. "Students were told to imagine themselves as runaway slaves and that their conductor would be trying to take them to freedom."

The night quickly grew serious and exciting, Sharpe said, as the conductors and runaway slaves hiked from a safe house to a hay wagon and on to multiple other safe houses.

Sheriffs and bounty hunters, portrayed by Callaway faculty, were looking for runaways and stopping each group as they traveled.

Bloodhounds were on hand to make the experience more realistic for the students.

The activity came to an end when each group reached "freedom" at bonfires that were lit all around the track.

To celebrate their new-found "freedom," parents and siblings were invited to roast marshmallows and make s'mores, as each child talked about their experience on the Underground Railroad.

"Callaway's Underground Railroad activity was a night that will forever be etched into the minds of the fifth-graders," said Sharpe. "The experience really came to life for these students."

The event was new to the school this year, but faculty and staff plan to put on the reenactment every year, Sharpe added.

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