Planning an Escape

K-12 Objectives | Materials Needed | Procedures | Assessment | Standards

Discipline: U.S. History

Specific Lesson Topic: Planning an escape from slavery in 18th century America?

Methodology: Primary Sources

K-12 Objectives:



Teacher introduction: This lesson makes use of advertisements for slave runaways from the Virginia Runaway's Project. To prepare for this lesson, read the introduction to the Virginia Runaways Digital Project. It may also be helpful to read some of the background documents collected on runaways and the law. The purpose of the lesson is to give students an opportunity to devise a plan for running away. The purpose of this lesson is to give students an opportunity to think about what was involved in running away and why slaves ran away.

Step 1 - Have students select any 20 advertisements from the Virginia Runaways Digital Project.

Step 2 - Students should consider the following questions as they read the runaway slave advertisements.

Questions relating to specific runaway advertisements.

Questions relating to the general idea of running away
Step 3 - Have students construct a plan for running away from captivity. In order to make this activity meaningful students will need some context for which to develop their plan. The context will take the form of a story with characters, setting and a plot.


Have students write a short journal entry that describes a slave's plan to run away. This journal entry should include information about what a slave would need to be successful, such as: clothes, tools, skills, and language proficiency, or friends. In addition, the description should include an indication of the best time to run away and a general description of how a run away could travel from place to place. The description could take the form of a plan or an anecdote or could be more detached and general. Students' descriptions should be narrative and not a list.


National History Standards: Standards in Historical Thinking

2: Historical Comprehension
3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation
4: Historical Research Capabilities
Era 5: Civil War and Reconstruction

Virginia Standards of Learning


National Council for the Social Studies

II. Time, Continuity, and Change
V. Individuals, Groups, and Institutions

This module created by John K. Lee of the University of Virginia.

Cheryl L. Mason and William G. Thomas

All Rights Reserved, 1999