Blog Post

Harriet Tubman Virtual Residency: Pre-Performance Part 2

Video Length: 15 minutes

Episode Focus Questions: How do symbols help us tell stories? What does Harriet Tubman symbolize?

Overview: Stories were a matter of life and death for Harriet Tubman. This video lesson examines important events in her life and the symbols that were critical to the success of the Underground Railroad. Students will consider how Harriet Tubman became a symbol herself and what she represents.

Students will:

  • Examine a production photo and create symbolic meaning for objects in the set design (fence, stars, American flag.)
  • Write three lines that Harriet might speak or think while trying to decide whether to escape or not. The first line is about what the fence might symbolize to Harriet, the second line is about what the stars mean to her, and the final line is about what the flag represents.
  •  Complete the sentence: “Harriet Tubman is a symbol of ______________.” Consider, if this were the last line of the play, how would you direct the actress playing Harriet Tubman to stand, focus her eyes, speak, pose? Would she be alone or with others?

Extension Ideas:

  • Compare the words that students chose to complete the sentence: “Harriet Tubman is a symbol of _______.” How many ideas were generated as a class?
  • Students may draw a picture to show their idea of how they’d stage their imagined final line of the play (“Harriet Tubman is a symbol of _____.”) Or take the pose themselves and snap a photo. Or work in pairs with one director and one actor.
  • Create a montage performance in which all students add their ideas together into one collective performance.
  • Discuss: Where do you see or hear symbols in today’s world? What importance do symbols have in our own lives?
  • Discuss: Harriet Tubman used songs to convey secret messages in the Underground Railroad. Do you think songs are still used to communicate messages to select groups?