Lesson 7: Stories of the Confederate South– “Moses”
This is an Underground Railroad story, loosely based on the well-known Harriet Tubman. However, I wanted to reveal some lesser-known insights into her character and into the Underground Railroad.
Epigraph: “O Liberty, how many crimes are committed in thy name” — Madam Roland.
For Discussion and Study:
1. Madam Roland and her husband were outspoken supporters of the French Revolution, but they too fell out of favor with those in power and died by the guillotine. Research her life and discuss the meaning of this epigraph and how it relates to this story.
2. Some servants (slaves) like Daniel were allowed to earn extra money. Many were able to even buy or earn their freedom. Discuss how this is a different perspective from the stereotypical view of slavery in the South. See Myths of American Slavery by Walter. D. Kennedy (Pelican Publishing) for even more insights.
3. Harriet Tubman was called the Moses of her people. Discuss the comparison of this woman leader to Moses. Like the Moses in the Bible, this Moses had good qualities and bad ones. Find and discuss the Biblical allusions she uses.
4. While the other servants are running away from slavery and their masters, Daniel is going with them for another reason. What is the reason for Daniel’s journey?
5. Discuss why escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad often had to go to Canada. Most are unaware of “Black” laws in many of the northern states and of the prejudice against black people that existed in the North as well as in the South. For more information go to this site on black codes.
6. Discuss the irony in the scene of Jacob’s death. Did Moses have a right to kill him? Daniel wanted to return, but is not allowed to. Does Daniel “truly” have freedom?
7. “Go Down Moses” is an old spiritual. Find, discover, and with your own voice or with recording, present some of these spirituals to your class. Here is a site devoted to Negro spirituals: http://ctl.du.edu/spirituals/Times/times.cfm
You can find some lyrics for 21 spirituals here: http://newdeal.feri.org/fwp/fwp05.htm