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Richard J. M. Blackett, Andrew Jackson Professor of History, Vanderbilt University

Karolyn Smardz Frost, Senior Research Fellow, Harriet Tubman Institute, York University

Seminar Location: Harriet Tubman Institute for Research into the Global Migrations of African Peoples, York University, Toronto, Canada


The summer institute is a one-week course exploring the history of the North American anti-slavery movement and the role of Canada as the main terminus of the Underground Railroad (UGRR), a vital part of the broader struggle waged against slavery. Teachers from across the US and Canada will explore some of the early history and mythology of the movement, and the ways these have come to be questioned in the last few decades, as well as some of the true stories of individuals who risked their lives for the sake of freedom. Driving our examination is the conviction that, at its heart, the UGRR was a continental movement that politically challenged the legitimacy of slavery. Our exploration will be constructed around three identifiable approaches: one, the decision of the enslaved to seek their freedom; two, what occurred at the points of conflict when slaveholders or their agents attempted to reclaim runaways; and three, what efforts were made by whites, free blacks, and slaves to disrupt slavery at its source.  The workshop will illuminate the experience of freedom-seekers once they crossed the border into British North America, and the contributions they and their descendants have made to building Canada as a nation.  The workshop concludes with an extended tour of African Canadian sites of memory founded in the UGRR era.


Readings are sent by the Institute to seminar participants. Readings may include:

Griffler, Keith P. Front Line of Freedom: African Americans and the Forging of the Underground Railroad in the Ohio River Valley. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004.

Gara, Larry. The Liberty Line: The Legend of the Underground Railroad. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996.

Smardz Frost, Karolyn.  I've Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Undergroun Railroad. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux & Toronto: Thomas Allen Publishers, 2007.

Travel & Accommodations

York University is located in the north of the City of Toronto. For directions to the Keele Campus please visit the York University website.

Workshop participants will be housed in an on-campus dormitory on the Keele Campus of York University. Participants will have single bedrooms, but share bathrooms and common space. The university provides pillows, blankets, sheets, and towels only. Please note that participants should plan to bring alarm clocks, hangers, irons, hair dryers, and shower shoes.


Meals will be served in a university cafeteria in space shared by other programs. All on-campus meals will be paid for by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Travel Reimbursement

Each summer seminar participant will receive reimbursement of travel expenses up to $400. Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to and from the seminar.

Participants traveling internationally or from Alaska and Hawaii receive a $500 stipend in lieu of reimbursement upon completion of the seminar.
Applicants to seminars should note that supplements will not be given in cases where the $400 allowance is insufficient to cover all travel expenses.

Our reimbursement policy has changed from previous years. For more information on our policy click here.

Graduate Credit

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is proud to announce its agreement with Adams State University to offer three hours of graduate credit in American history to participating seminar teachers. For more information click here.


Email the Teacher Seminars department or call 646-366-9666.

July 14th, 2013 5:00 PM   through   July 20th, 2013 9:00 AM
York University
Toronto, ON

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Seminar Fee
Attending $50.00
Not Attending $0.00

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