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Abolitionism and the Underground Railroad

Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 4, 2013

A two-week seminar for sixteen school teachers to study the history of the Underground Railroad and abolitionism.

The project director Graham Hodges (history, Colgate University) leads a two-week seminar that engages participants in an examination of "how ordinary Americans in the rural Northeast practiced freedom building" in the years from the Revolution to the Civil War. The seminar begins with an examination of colonial America and the impact that the Revolution had on slavery and understandings of freedom before turning to the rise of immediatism and antislavery activism in the nineteenth century. Participants consider the role that Frederick Douglass and women played in the abolition movement in the Northeast. Finally, they explore the violent sectionalism of the 1850s and the ways that abolitionism and the Underground Railroad operated in that context. In addition to reading and discussion, the group travels to sites in upstate New York connected to the history of abolitionism, including the homes of William Seward, Harriet Tubman, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the graves of Austin Seward and Frederick Douglass. Stacey Robertson (Bradley University) leads the session on women in the abolition movement, noting connections between female activism and the rise of the women's rights movement; Stanley Harrold (South Carolina State University) leads discussions on the question of violence in the abolition movement and Underground Railroad. Readings include a mix of primary sources, such as antislavery tracts, runaway slave advertisements, autobiographies, and antislavery newspapers, as well as works by such scholars as Gary Nash, Richard Newman, Graham Hodges, Stacey Robertson, and Stanley Harrold.

Dates: July 8—19 (2 weeks)
Director(s): Graham Russell Hodges, Colgate University
Grantee Institutions: Colgate University
Location: Hamilton, NY

About NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. An NEH Summer Seminar for school teachers enables sixteen participants to explore a topic or set of readings with an expert scholar. The core material of the seminar need not relate directly to the school curriculum; the principal goal of the seminar is to engage teachers in the scholarly enterprise and to expand and deepen their understanding of the humanities through reading, discussion, writing, and reflection.

Amount of Award

NEH Summer Scholars are awarded fixed stipends to help cover travel costs, books and other research expenses, and living expenses. Stipend amounts are based on the length of the NEH Summer Seminar or Institute: $2,100 (2 weeks), $2,700 (3 weeks), $3,300 (4 weeks), $3,900 (5 weeks), or $4,500 (6 weeks).


Full-time teachers in American K-12 schools, whether public, charter, independent, or religiously affiliated, as well as home-schooling parents, are eligible to apply to NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. Americans teaching abroad are also eligible if a majority of the students they teach are American citizens. Librarians and school administrators may also be eligible.

You may request information about as many projects as you like, but you may apply to no more than two NEH Summer Programs (seminars, institutes, or Landmarks workshops) and you may attend only one. Eligibility criteria differ significantly between NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes and NEH Landmarks Workshops.

Please note: Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are available for current graduate students, who intend to pursue careers in K-12 teaching.

How to Apply

For more information and application instructions, please visit the program website listed above.