Kalmar Nyckel replica in foundation building

Kalmar Nyckel’s Underground Railroad class focuses on travel options

Jarek RutzCulture, Headlines

Kalmar Nyckel replica in foundation building

The Kalmar Nyckel Foundation’s new classroom program focuses on the Underground Railroad.


The Kalmar Nyckel Foundation will offer a new class focusing on the many ways slaves could travel along the Underground Railway, emphasizing Delaware’s role in it, as well as the state’s maritime history.

In addition, the program will teach five different strategic routes and factors, and five modes of transportation that made Delaware central to the escape networks of slaves. 

The class, “Five Ways to Freedom: Navigating Delaware’s Underground Railroad Network,” can be taught in schools and will be taught at Fort Christina Park.

“Our goal is to have students engage critically with real-life stories and problem-solving from this pivotal chapter of American history,” said Sam Heed, director of education and senior historian for the foundation.

The Kalmar Nyckel is Delaware’s tall ship, and the foundation maintains it and a maritime center on the Wilmington Riverfront. The center also is devoted to the state’s rich maritime history, from colonial days until now.

The ship is a model of the one that brought Swedish immigrants to the New World in 1638 They landed at The Rock, where Fort Christina Park now exists.

The class will include looks at five leaders – Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Thomas Garrett, Capt. Alfred Fountain and William Still – and the abolitionist movement, which wanted to make slavery illegal.

The Kalmar Nyckel ties into the movement because a “maritime Underground Railroad” allowed people to use ships and boats to find freedom.

The oceanic aspect of the Underground Railroad is often forgotten about, said a Kalmar Nyckel Foundation press release. 

The program is constructed to satisfy Delaware’s K-12 Social Studies Standards for eighth grade history. It’s also designed for all students, adult groups, and anyone interested in learning more about the underground railroad.

Heed said that emphasizing the “agency” freedom-seekers had in their travels will prompt students to analyze historical events and draw their own conclusions for deeper learning and understanding about the time period. 

Heed said that the new program was funded by a “generous grant” from the Chichester duPont Foundation

To schedule a “Five Ways to Freedom,” program, educators may contact Kalmar Nyckel Foundation Assistant Director of Education Marygrace Kennedy at [email protected] or call 302-429-7447 on weekdays. 

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