Lesson Plan Title : Exploring Negro Spirituals

Age Range: Grade 6 through Grade 8 (Middle School)

Overview and Purpose: In this activity, students examine Negro spirituals and consider whether they contained hidden messages about escape routes to freedom.

Objective: The student will be able to explore the lyrics to Negro spirituals and examine how they could have been used to communicate escape routes to slaves.


Copies of Negro spirituals

Internet access for each group of students


Pass out the lyrics of Negro spirituals to your students. Read through them as a class and have the students try to point out phrases that may have been codes for the slaves. Divide the class into groups and have them research the spirituals to see if they chose the correct phrases. Come back together as a class and discuss their findings.

Wrap Up:

An extension of this activity could be to have the students work together to write their own coded message in a song that only you and them will understand.

Note: There is some debate among scholars and historians as to whether Negro spirituals contained coded messages or just offered hope of a better life.