Code Black


Sandra Keammerer


July 24, 2001


Chesterton High School


Chesterton, IN


(Overall theme)

Spirituals/Poetry/Oral Tradition

Classroom sessions or estimated time

one block session of 91 minutes/start of the next class block for the American Lit. task

Grade Level(s)

11th average grouping



To acquaint students with a genre that was unique and different to a specific time frame and which was brought about due to a historical happening in U. S. History.

*Geography Standards Addressed


*Indiana Social Studies Academic Standards addressed

This has the Indiana’s Academic Standards 11th Grade English/Language Arts noted.  The U. S. History teacher would have to do the standards for his area.  These I do not know.


To gain an awareness and an appreciation of slave spirituals as part of their American Literature/American History heritage which makes us all ONE-the new Americans.


American History/American Lit. Curriculum Link

*Reserve Research Media Computer Room-research needed by the U. S. teacher

American History Materials

1.     American History Text-reading/research

2.     American History/English notebook-class notes

3. U. S. Outline map with state boundaries shown-teacher can determine map size- for information gathered/displayed- http://www.nationalgeographic.com      7/26/01

4.     IN state outline map showing rivers and major cities-size determined by teacher-for information gathered/displayed

5.     Colored pencils/crayons/pens- for information displayed


American Literature

1.    Literature Text-reading/research


2.    Spiritual Packet-reading/research/information gathered/analyzing/samples http://www.ket.org/underground/resources/music.htm 7/26/01


http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/allen/menu.html 7/26/01


a.    Follow the Drinking Gourd

When the sun comes back and the first quail calls,

    Follow the drinking gourd,

For the old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedom

    If you follow the drinking gourd.


Follow the drinking gourd,

    Follow the drinking gourd,

For the old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedom

     If you follow the drinking gourd.


The river bank will make a very good road,

     The dead trees show you the way,

Left foot, peg foot traveling on

     Follow the drinking gourd.


The river ends between two hills

     Follow the drinking gourd,

There’s another river on the other side,

     Follow the drinking gourd.


Where the little river meets the great big river,

     Follow the drinking gourd.

The old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedom,

     If you follow the drinking gourd.

*Text-Conflict and Celebration-p. 224



b.   Go /Down, Moses

c.    Good News

d.   Steal Away

e.    Roll, Jordan Roll

f.     O Canaan

3.    Individual Student outline format sample

Title of Work:




Literary Skill/Skills: Symbols, Stanza, Rhyme Pattern



Main Ideas/Themes:

2001 Connection/Connections:

4.    Attention-getter-a REAL dipper gourd/pail of water

5.    Spotlight-to highlight dipper/pail

6.    Overhead for North Star presentation/oral responses

7.    *Students must come with literary skills learned earlier in the class-especially symbolism, rhyme scheme, stanza format

*Purpose of Materials

To bring together a group of spirituals that show an additional genre that are not included in our textbook.  To expand  student thinking from the obvious to more in depth thinking requiring “outside” the box thinking. 


American History Link-supply historical information


1.      Begin with students brain storming for background information regarding political events happening in the country prior to the Civil War and the Economics of the Southern agrarian system.


2.      Ask leading questions(Who, What, Where, When, and Why) to gather information for future use.  Be sure necessary locations are included.

  1. Northern states
  2. Southern states
  3. Mississippi River
  4. Border states
  5. Ohio River
  6. New states being added
  7. Great Lakes
  8. Canada
  9. Detroit
  10. Windsor

*Information that is still needed will be found as the

teacher guides students to their text/atlas materials for locations.

3.      Using the individual student map, locate and label items found in the brain storming/research session.

4.      Continue brain storming for term information about the Underground Railroad.  Include these terms:  passenger/fugitive, conductor, station, and underground railroad.  Also, be sure slave states, non-slave states, and Mason-Dixon Line are noted.

5.      Teacher will guide students to information not gathered by using their text.

6.      Again, use the student map to locate items found

in No. 4.  Have students include a map key.

7.      Introduce the IN Underground Railroad

Connection.  Students will probably have little state knowledge.  This will need MORE teacher direction.  Brain storm to get their information first.

Begin in this way.  You are a slave in Louisville, KY, and you have escaped from your plantation, heading north.  You want the quickest route!  How might you go through IN?  Locations not known must be gathered by research or lecture.


  1. Ohio River
  2. Quaker river communities-trip acquired(TA)
  3. Eleutherian College at Lancaster-TA
  4. Inland Quaker communities/Earlham College

at Richmond-TA

  1. Levi Coffin’s station at Fountain City(Newport)


  1. Pokagon State Park area at Angola-TA
  2. Detroit-Second Baptist Church-TA
  3. Windsor, Canada-Sandwich Church-TA

8.      Using the IN map, locate items found in No. 7 and label the route you as a slave could have taken.

*SPECIAL NOTE- Locations found in No. 7 were part of an Underground Railroad Institute that I had been a participant.  I would brief the U. S. History teacher with this information, sharing materials with him.



1.      Set the Stage with the attention getter-a REAl

dipper gourd with a pail of water.

2.      Have this stage set before the class arrives.  Be  

sure that this is displayed prominently in the front of the room with the spotlight on it.  The rest of the room should be completely DARK!  Go for high


3.      Observe student reaction as they arrive.

4.      Begin-a. Acknowledge the history connection that they have done with the history teacher.

  1. Bridge the Gap by asking how do these items displayed relate to what you have been doing in history class. c. Comment on all answers given.


NEXT-INTRODUCTION-Lecture style-To a group of people who were transported to our shores against their wills, not like the Europeans who came because they wanted, robbed of their families and all that was familiar including their language, and bound into slavery, simple things became important to them such as the gourd and water.  The drinking gourd was used by slaves for the Big Dipper.  The Big Dipper is a group of stars whose “bowl” points to another group of stars called The Little Dipper.  The Little Dipper contains the North Star, which got its name because it is always above the North Pole.  For slaves, north meant freedom, and that is the star in the sky they were to follow to freedom.  Water symbolizes the crossings that would be in the path of the slave before reaching the promised area for freedom. 


Question-Critical Thinking-What simple things could have great importance for you? List responses on overhead.  Accept all answers and then note the most significant ones in relationship to sustaining life.

*Standard 7 Listening and Speaking Skills Strategies, and Applications


Continue Lecture-Because these enslaved people did not know this new language and were purposely kept from learning how to read and write, they devised poetry using simple words with repeating phrases to express their feelings, giving them an inner religious strength to endure their enforced slavery.  They created a new American Literature genre of sorrow songs known as spirituals.  Many of these spiritual poems were actually copied after African hymns and African music from their homelands.   It was through this genre that a double meaning format was established to convey secret messages from one person to another.  This gourd and pail of water were easily obtained on the plantation and would not have caused much attention when talked about or sung.  These items were used in a spiritual that has become well known as Follow the Drinking Gourd.



 Together the class with the teacher will analyze Follow the Drinking Gourd using the outline format that each student has been provided.

1.      Students read silently the spiritual.

2.      Teacher again reads orally the spiritual.

3.      Have students fill in outline as to what they know.

4.      Discuss information given.

5.      Brain storm items that are still needed.

6.      Gather information for the rest of the outline.

7.      Review completed outline.

8.      On the overhead show the North Star Formation.



After completion of this task, teacher assigns  students to a two person team.  Students are given another spiritual from the sample list to analyze.  Teacher is not actively involved unless team members ask questions.  These outlines will be completed and handed in at the end of the block.


Assessment-Assign students to a new partnership at the start of the next block as soon as student arrive.

Each partnership will receive a new spiritual to analyze for a grade.  *Special note-Provide a variety of spirituals to be used with the teacher giving out spirituals keeping in mind each team’s capacity.









*Teaching Strategies

1.      Teaming

2.      Lecture

3.      Research

4.      Brain Storming

5.      Cooperative Research gathering

*Assessments (key questions to simulate critical thinking)

What do you already know? Use that information to then create self questions for information that is still needed?  How can I apply what I know?  What do I really need to know?  How can I find what I need now? How can the teacher help me to collect what I need?

*Within the procedure section are additional questions for critical thinking.  Note the outline-example.  What are the major 2001 connections to me, the student, personally?

Adaptations and/or Extensions

These suggestions could become homework assignments.


To make this bonded experience more personal the North Star program provided by a living history museum would be invaluable.  This could be a student planned field trip experience. http://www.connerprairie.org 7/25/01


1.      Write your own personal spiritual to share with the class.




*STANDARD 5 WRITING:  WRITING APPLICATIONS(Different Types of Writing and Their Characteristics)


2.      People today write and sing songs to give each other courage and hope in desperate situations.

Find an example of this and explain why you made this selection.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/singers/ 7/25/01




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