Summer institute looks at teaching the Underground Railroad

“Across the Border: A Transnational Approach to Teaching the Underground Railroad” is a summer institute happening at York this week designed to facilitate the multi-directional flow of social sciences and humanities knowledge about the Underground Railroad among university-based scholars, educators and the larger community.

The Underground Railroad is arguably the most important social justice movement of 19th century North America. This joint venture between the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migration of African Peoples at York University and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University, part of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, will run from July 14 Tubmanto 21, in the Senior Common Room, Founders College, Keele campus.

It will also feature a keynote address by Jean Augustine, the fairness commissioner for Ontario and the honorary patron of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Harriet Tubman, who helped free over 70 enslaved families

The institute will bring together some 30 scholars and professional educators from Canada and the United States, along with graduate students, and the Tubman Institute’s partner organizations in the African Canadian descendant community. Participants will learn, study, produce new and innovative learning materials, and forge partnerships both with university-based scholars and students, and amongst themselves. These partnerships are expected to be both lasting and highly significant.

The summer institute is a multi-faceted program with intensive reading and discussion sessions coupled with experiential learning opportunities, including documentary analysis and interpretation at the at the Archives of Ontario; instructional media development employing cutting edge digital technology at York University’s Augmented Reality laboratory, the largest in Canada; and exploration of powerful ways to teach about the Underground Railway through process drama.

It will also include workshops engaging participants with members of the African Canadian descendant communities of Southwestern Ontario and offered in the context of churches, schools and community museums evocative of the achievements of African American refugees who found new homes in Canada in the years before the American Civil War.

The teachers’ summer institute is sponsored by the Harriet Tubman Institute, the Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale University, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada.