Elijah of Buxton Extension Activity
- Grades: 3–5
About this book
ABOUT THE BOOK
In 1860, Elijah Freeman is only eleven years old when he is thrust into the "growned-up" world in the Buxton Settlement in Canada where he lives with his parents and other freed slaves. Elijah knows about slavery and the meaning of freedom from the stories told by those in his community. But Elijah was born free, so he has no first-hand knowledge of what it means to live a life of bondage. What he does know is that Mr. Leroy, a "growned-up friend," is willing to risk everything to buy his wife and children out of slavery. Unfortunately Elijah learns a "growned-up" lesson about the untrustworthiness of strangers when the Preacher, a disreputable character from a nearby community, offers to help Mr. Leroy but ends up stealing his money. Mr. Leroy's journey ends sadly, but Elijah's effort to help him brings his own life full circle when he transports a baby girl to freedom. As a baby, Elijah was made a symbol of hope by Mr. Frederick Douglass, and now he has earned this distinction by becoming the youngest conductor on the Underground Railroad.
Have students take a virtual journey on the Underground Railroad (www.nationalgeographic.com/railroad). Write a brief paper titled "My Journey to Freedom."
Find out about the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Why did this law make it risky for African Americans living in the Settlement, which was in Canada, to cross over to Detroit, which was in the USA? How did the law make it unsafe even for those born in freedom, like Elijah Freeman?
Write a letter that Elijah Freeman might write to Frederick Douglass relating his experience as the youngest conductor on the Underground Railroad. Explain how this journey changes Elijah's life.
Elijah attends the circus with the Preacher and describes it as one of the most exciting nights of his life. The poster advertising the circus says, Sir Charles M. Vaughn and His World Renowned Carnival of Oddities. Complete a series of captioned illustrations of what Elijah sees at the circus.
The children of Buxton don't have many toys, but Emma Collins has a handmade sock doll that she shares with Birdie, a new child crossing into freedom. Make a sock doll similar to Emma's doll that might be given to Hope, the baby girl Elijah brings to freedom.
Music and Performance
Traditional songs are closely connected to the history of African Americans. "Wade in the Water," "The Gospel Train," and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" are among the many songs of the Underground Railroad. Read the lyrics of these songs (www.negrospirituals.com/news-song/index.htm) and discuss how these songs symbolized freedom to those who were trying to escape a life of bondage. What other songs at this site represent freedom? Divide students into small groups and ask each group to perform one of the freedom songs for the class.
In the book, there is a ceremony in the Buxton Settlement each time a new slave takes their first step into freedom, and it is customary that the Liberty Bell is rung twenty times. Plan the ceremony that takes place when Elijah brings the baby, called Hope, to freedom at the end of the novel. Include songs, recitations, and a speech delivered by Elijah.
Reverend William King, a white Presbyterian minister, founded and supervised the community of Elgin, the last stop on the Underground Railroad for many slaves from America. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., led the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. Stage a one-act play where the two Reverend Kings meet. Make a connection between their messages of peace. Begin and end the play with appropriate music.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christopher Paul Curtis was born and reared in Flint, Michigan. After high school graduation, he worked on the assembly line of the Fisher Body Plant No. 1 and attended the Flint branch of the University of Michigan. His first book, The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963, received a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor book citation in 1996, and Bud, Not Buddy received the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award in 2000. Today, he is a full-time writer, and makes his home with his wife and two children in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
The official site of the North American Black Historical Museum which makes a connection between Canadian Black History and Black History of the United States.
Shows various routes on the Underground Railroad.
The official site for the Frederick Douglas National Historic Site.
These extension activities were prepared by Pat Scales, Greenville, SC.