Resources and Learning Materials for Teachers

Compiled by Wendy Bell



Steal Away: Songs of the Underground Railroad As performed by Kim and Reggie Harris 1984, Appleseed Recordings


Making Music Scott Foresman: Silver Burdette and Ginn, Grade Level 4, No. 9, tracks 14(“Follow the Drinking Gourd”), 15 and 16(“Wade in the Water”), 17(Harriet Tubman Poem).


(Note: materials below may be found at

Put Your Hand on Your Hip & Let Your Backbone Slip. 31 songs of Bessie Jones, who learned songs from her grandfather (who died in 1941 at age 105!) and others from the Georgia Sea Islands. Many of the songs date back to slavery days. In the accompanying guide, Mary Jo Barron writes “In every song, there is pride and belief and sorrow and determination and hope and humor.”



Blind Tom–“Gold Apple” award-winning true drama of Thomas Bethune, a slave born blind in Georgia in 1849. A musical prodigy, he teaches himself piano by ear, and develops a repertoire of over 7000 pieces. Indentured all his life, Blind Tom finds his freedom in the music he composes and performs throughout America and Europe.  With a complete online teacher’s guide and suggested discussion questions.  Purchase includes public performance rights. Live-action. 30 min.


Follow the Drinking Gourd –hardback by Jeanette Winter and Reading Rainbow DVD . The story of Peg Leg Joe, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and the brave runaway slaves who followed the Big Dipper to freedom.


Follow the Drinking Gourd  –Rabbit Ears DVD. These award-winning DVDs have the story narrated by celebrity-Morgan Freeman; the music performed by Taj Mahal-and the illustrations done by Yvonne Buchanan.


Hip Cat –A Reading Rainbow Selection. Includes a reading of the book, a visit with the Harlem Boys choir, and an interview with Joshua Redman.


Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory–In 1871, nine Fisk University singers set off on a desperate mission to save their school from bankruptcy. Set up after the war to prepare ex-slaves like themselves for the challenges of freedom, Fisk embodied their own hopes for the future. Facing bigotry and dressed in rags, they overcame incredible odds to save their school and to establish the spirituals of their people throughout the world as a universal expression of faith and deliverance. Outstanding PBS documentary, with performances recreated by the current Jubilee Singers. 60 min. video


Say Amen Somebody–Superb, joyful, and inspirational documentary about gospel music and its development. See Willie Mae Ford Smith, Thomas A. Dorsey and other pioneers of this genre. “The music is as exciting and uplifting as any music I’ve ever heard on film…a great experience”-Roger Ebert. Includes a bonus 15-song CD. 120 min DVD


Story of the Blues–Priceless archival imagery and performance footage capture the essence of the music, the men, and places that shaped the blues. From slavery and rural uprooting to urban dislocation, discrimination and poverty, black musicians found in blues an outlet for their pain and frustrated dreams.



            Hopkinson, Deborah.  Band of Angels.  New York: Scholastic Inc., 1999.

The inspirational story about the creation of the Jubilee Singers-the most important black singing group of the 19th century-when the courage of a brave band and a girl named Ella saved beloved spirituals like Swing Low, Sweet Chariot from being lost forever. Ages 5-9. 30 pp. HB


Gale Reference Team/Thomson Gale; Biography-Pinkney Andrea Davis (1963-) article from: Contemporary authors Online [HTML] (Digital) December 16th, 2007. (See for download).


Cooper, Michael. Slave Spirituals and the Jubilee Singers.  The engrossing story of spirituals and the people who sang them, from Africa to slavery to freedom, and then to the Jubilee Singers who brought them to the attention of the world. Ages 8-15. 86 pp. HB


            Freedman, Russell. The Voice That Challenged A Nation: Marian Anderson And       The Struggle For Equal Rights. New York: Clarion Books, 2004.


            Ryan, Pam Munoz. When Marian Sang.  New York: Scholastic Press, 2002.



An amazing website that offers everything from the company history to tickets to their latest performances.

A biography of the choreographer.

This is a set of five lessons designed to teach students about the life and work of Duke Ellington. The site was designed for the Duke Ellington Centennial and seems to be sponsored by ArtsEdge, the Smithsonian,  and MENC (the Music Educator’s National Conference). This is a commercial website which is full of multicultural books, music, dvds, instruments, and written music suitable for the K-12 classroom.

This scholastic website contains a great lesson plan based on the book and the use of the famous song “This Little Light of Mine”.

This is an amazing lesson series using the poetry of Langston Hughes and its relationship to Blues music–see following for music to listen to:

This Smithsonian Site on Jazz has three sets of lessons which would be a lot of fun for students: Ella matching game, Ella Singing Lessons (a great way to introduce Scat Singing), and a set of lesson plans which may be utilized by the teacher to integrate the two other activities.

This site offers a lesson plan about the elements of tall-tales and extends to a lesson where the students create their own.


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