Southwestern Middle School students presented projects they’ve worked on in observance of Black History Month. The students presented their work at a special event Sunday at St. Michael the Archangel Church. (Staff photo by Josh Hunt/jhunt@madisoncoureir.com)
Southwestern Middle School students presented projects they’ve worked on in observance of Black History Month. The students presented their work at a special event Sunday at St. Michael the Archangel Church. (Staff photo by Josh Hunt/jhunt@madisoncoureir.com)

Southwestern Middle School eighth-graders celebrated Black History Month on Sunday,   presenting a program about the Underground Railroad at St. Michael the Archangel Church.

Students of teacher Katie Moderau created  displays highlighting Madison’s role in the Underground Railroad.

Some of the displays included models of  Madison sites that were important in aiding runaway slaves seeking their freedom.

Models of the A.M.E. Church and the Elijah Anderson House were some of the buildings featured.  Students Katlyn Tullis, Faith Phelps, Ivy Lytle and Skyler Hughes created a model of the church, and Brendan Courter and Darrell Amburgey built a model of the Elijah Anderson House.

Visitors also could watch a video game show where they could test their knowledge of  Underground Railroad history. “Are You Smarter Than A Slave Catcher” featured trivia about Harriet Tubman, what life was like for a slave, and their flight north to freedom.

The game show was created by students Aaron Watson, Mike Abbott, Abby Raltson, Tessa Bowling, and Kendall Gerber.

With the flight north, many students sought inspiration from the North Star, which guided runaway slaves.  

Student Justyn Hooker created clay sculptures of candles accompanied by a recording of “Follow The Drinking Gourd.”  The song is based on folklore that says fugitive slaves used the Big Dipper and the North Star to find their way to freedom. Rather than calling it a dipper, the slaves referred to it was a drinking gourd, an image more familiar to them.

Several students painted canvas murals which will be hung along Main Street. Caitlin Reece, Samara Sims, Darrell Amburgey, Danny Callis, and Emma Staicer designed banners with  symbols and imagery important to Madison’s involvement in the Underground Railroad. The banners will be hung at locations on Main Street that were important to the liberation trail north.

The event also included a guessing game involving smell and touch. Amber Reece and Megan Thomas had four boxes each with different items. People were asked to feel and smell the contents of each box. There were items such as rice and cotton, which were a staple of the southern economy, as well as lavender, dried tomatoes, and peppers, which were important staples for food. The red peppers were also rubbed into the damaged skin of whipped slaves  to inflict a more severe punishment.

All of the students’ work will be on display at Madison’s “Art On Main” through the end of February.