Dates: July 10-29, 2022
Location: Colgate University; Hamilton, NY
Format: In-person with some online instruction

Application deadline: March 1, 2022
Stipend: $2,850
Program director: Graham Hodges


You are invited to apply to a three-week, residential, summer institute from July 10-29, 2022 on Abolitionism and the Underground Railroad (UGRR) in North America from the colonial era through the Civil War. Centered at Colgate University, this will be the eighth version of this institute, the last occurring in 2019. Twenty-five middle and high school teachers will join Graham Hodges, the institute director,  Jacqueline Simmons, the pedagogy leader, seven guest faculty, and four site hosts. Several guest faculty will speak in-person; others will appear virtually on zoom.  The majority of the institute will occur in July 2022, there will be conferences six months and a year later to discover how participants have incorporated the institute’s material into their pedagogy.

COVID-19 Guidance

The Institute is planned to be in-person, but nearly all of it could be virtual, if health conditions mandate. Depending on public-health guidelines related to COVID-19, plans for a residential offering are subject to change. At this time, Colgate University requires that all persons arriving at and using campus facilities be fully vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus and be able to show proof of their vaccination and a recent negative test. 

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NEH Policy

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

About the Program

Sitting portrait of Sojourner Truth
Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana.

Colgate’s location makes it an ideal spot to study abolitionism and the Underground Railroad. Upstate New York was a nationally important center of abolitionist activity from the early 1830s until the Civil War and home to key figures including abolitionists Gerrit Smith, Jermain Loguen, Beriah Green, Frederick Douglass, Solomon Northup, John Brown, and Harriet Tubman.

Three major tracks of the Underground Railroad ran through upstate New York. On the eastern side of the state, freedom seekers found sanctuary and assistance in New York City, up the Hudson River to Albany and through the Adirondack Region. In the middle of the state, Underground Railroad routes ran across the Mohawk River to Syracuse, Oswego and Canada, or up to Ithaca and Rochester, and from Binghamton to Syracuse. The third route encompassed the western corridor through Fredonia, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls. Americans find the histories of the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement appealing largely because they represent the moral activism of a concerned, enlightened interracial citizenry intent on ending slavery and making the United States live up to its revolutionary principles. 

Portrait of Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass
Public Domain

While upstate New York will be the “laboratory” for the institute, readings, discussions and individual research will extend to the development of abolitionism and the Underground Railroad nationally. Using Karen Wulf’s influential article in Humanities, “Vast Early America,” this institute strives to uncover how enslaved people resisted servitude across North America. Geography mixes with chronology in the institute. Participants will study the beginnings of the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad from their origins in the religious questioning and enslaved resistance of the colonial era, through the egalitarian and freedom-loving ethos of revolutionary and early national periods through the advent of the Civil War. The emergence of gradual emancipation, post-revolutionary northern legislation that slowly freed African Americans after years of service to masters, reignited past questions about the nature of slavery and resistance to it. Many African Americans gained freedom by gradual emancipation, through courtroom battles, by personal agreements with masters and most commonly, by flight from bondage. In 1799, New York State enacted gradual emancipation and in 1827 ended legal servitude. At the same time, a rising educated African American elite sought to protect endangered freedoms and to fight kidnappers who were intent on profits from illicit sales of blacks to the south, actions that connected New York State blacks with enslaved peoples in southern states. Among whites, evangelical religion, the legacy of the American Revolution, and concerns about Slave Power (the northern states’ view that southern slaveholding states had excessive national power) sustained growing anti-slavery and free labor convictions in the northern states.  Using newer materials, the institute examines the development of a southern Underground Railroad into Spanish-held Florida, Texas and Mexico. Examining these historical trends helps uncover the combined efforts of African and white Americans, significant involvement by women in antislavery activities, and the development of local abolitionism and the Underground Railroad. Internal debates focused on electoral politics, regarded by many as corrupted by slavery, and which undeniably excluded blacks and all women. 

The Underground Railroad and abolitionist movements have a distinguished and lively historiography among scholars and sustain popular appeal to local and state historians, who publish guidebooks, family and community histories, and regional surveys about the movements. The institute will feature recent work by Manisha Sinha, Richard Blackett, Leigh Fought, Kate Larson, Eric Foner, Kellie Carter Jackson, Alice Baumgartner, Amy Murrell Taylor, Karen Cook-Bell and Graham Hodges, among many other scholars.  Jacqueline Simmons from Teachers College, Columbia University will work with institute colleagues to interpret scholarship into curricular knowledge. Simmons and Hodges will work directly with participant to create podcasts, videocasts, and digital portfolios. 

Daily Schedule PDF

Participants and staff will engage historical information and concepts in three packed weeks. Following registration in the afternoon of Sunday, July 10, the institute will begin with a reception at the home of the director that evening. Past participants enjoyed this event, quickly bonded, and met Colgate staff and institute speakers. 

Formal sessions will occur Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until noon, with a fifteen-minute break at about the halfway point.  After a working lunch, there will be a one-hour discussion of the morning’s experience followed by ninety minutes of pedagogical interaction discussing curricular application of themes and documents addressed earlier in the day. After the pedagogy sessions, the director will hold office hours as desired. There will be several evening screenings of films directly relevant to the goals of the institute. To enhance participants’ research, the library will be open during workweek evenings, and during the day on Saturday. Throughout the institute, the director, pedagogy leader, and the Case Library Information Technology staff will work with visiting speakers and participants to gather resources for culminating portfolios. 

Graham Russell Gao Hodges, the George Dorland Langdon, Jr. Professor of History and Africana and Latin American Studies at Colgate University, will organize, direct, be the principal lecturer at the institute, and will attend all sessions and events. Douglas Egerton, Professor of History at LeMoyne College, a major scholar of the Civil War and Reconstruction Eras, and a speaker at past institutes, is prepared to replace Hodges should the need arise.

Seven scholarly guest speakers include:

  • Judith Wellman, professor of history emerita at SUNY Oswego and a nationally-known consultant on UGRR sites
  • Manisha Sinha, Draper Professor of History at the University of Connecticut and author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolitionism
  • Kate Clifford Larson, author of the definitive biography of Harriet Tubman
  • Alice L. Baumgartner, Assistant Professor, University of Southern California and author of a pioneering book on the UGRR in Mexico
  • Kellie Carter Jackson, Assistant Professor of History at Wellesley College and author of the acclaimed book, Force and Freedom: Black Abolitionism and the Politics of Violence,
  • Richard Blackett, Andrew Jackson Professor of History at Vanderbilt University and author of The Captives’ Quest for Freedom,
  • Leigh Fought, Associate Professor of history at Le Moyne College and author of Frederick Douglass’s Women.


Jacqueline Simmons, Senior Lecturer and Vice Chair of the Department of Curriculum & Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University, will create and conduct seven pedagogy sessions for the institute. Simmons and Hodges will attend all events.

Other respected authorities will help on the group’s trips. Paul and Mary Liz Stewart, independent researchers and co-founders of Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region, Inc., will enable the field trip to the Myers Home in Albany. Dr. Lindsay Varner, the director of the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, Vermont, will oversee the group’s visit there. Steve Strimer, director of the David Ruggles Center in Florence, Massachusetts, will conduct the group tour at the site. John Brown Lives, a volunteer group of scholars, will organize events and cooperate with the New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation agency for a tour of the John Brown home. Kezia Lawler, the Administrative Assistant for the Colgate Department of History, and a selected undergraduate, will assist in the program.

Based on attendance and participation, the director of the summer institute will provide a letter recommending that each teacher participating in the institute should receive credit for fifty development hours.

Participants should come out of this intensive three-week experience well-armed with primary documents and databases, exposure to the best secondary treatments, awareness of the importance of local historical sites, museums, and archives, and a genuine enthusiasm for teaching the history of abolitionism and the UGRR to their students.

Campus and Local Resources

Colgate University’s Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology offers a wealth of primary documents directly relevant to the institute’s methods and goals. Documents are readily available through websites and databases such as America’s Historic Newspapers (Newsbank), African American Newspapers: the 19th century (Accessible Archives), Harper’s Weekly (HarpWeek), Proquest Historical Newspapers, and Slavery and Anti-Slavery: a transnational archive. All five, plus many other databases and the library’s entire book, film, and journal collections will be available to institute participants, who may freely use the library during the institute to search and borrow books, print without cost, and relax comfortably.

Participants will lodge in a renovated hotel just north of town. Each participant will have a single room with a full-size bed and full bath. Each room will have a coffee maker, and a small refrigerator. There is ample parking at the hotel. Charges for room and campus facilities amount to a modest forty dollars daily. 

Participants may purchase meals at the campus dining hall for seven dollars per breakfast and nine dollars each for lunch and dinner. More elaborate meals may be prepared at the ALANA cultural center on short notice. Frequent campus shuttles operate between the campus, hotel and on-demand to a large supermarket near the hotel.

Participants can enjoy many other campus facilities. Colgate University, established in 1819, is an apt and centrally located place for this institute. The campus is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the nation. Colgate, a highly selective college of 2,900 students, boasts the Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology, a state-of-the-art library of over 700,000 volumes, plus periodicals, e-journals, government documents, and dozens of appropriate web-based archives. Case Library will be open for extended evening hours during the institute.

Participants can use the exceptional fitness center, racket and squash courts, gymnasiums, indoor and outdoor running tracks, Olympic-size pool, hiking trails, or relax on its extensive lawns. Biking is a favored local sport.


Summer is the best time of the year in Central New York. Participants can enjoy the town’s extensive weekly farmer’s market, appetizing restaurants, restored historic cinema house and theaters.

Nearby Bouckville is home to dozens of antique stores. The Earlville Opera House, only five miles away, hosts nationally-known music performers. Cooperstown, home of Glimmerglass Opera, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Fenimore Museums is less than an hour away. Walking trails connect Hamilton with numerous towns.

Participant Stipend

Participants will receive a $2850 stipend set by the NEH for three-week residential programs. There will be two payments. The first will be upon arrival; the second will occur on Monday of the third week. Charges for room, campus facilities fee and meal plans will be deducted from the second check. The stipend is taxable and participants should save all applicable receipts. Colgate University will not supply 1099 forms during the following tax season. 

Project applicants who accept an offer to participate are expected to remain during the entire period of the program and to participate in its work on a full-time basis. If a participant is obliged through special circumstances to depart before the end of the program, it shall be the recipient institution’s responsibility to see that only a pro rata share of the stipend is received or that the appropriate pro rata share of the stipend is returned if the participant has already received the full stipend.

Participant Selection

  • The audiences for the Summer Institute are middle and high school social studies and history teachers from across the nation.
  • Admission will be competitive and based upon experience teaching American history and ethnic history in classroom situations, past NEH institute involvement, and geographic diversity.
  • At least five spots will be reserved for teachers with five or less years of experience.
  • Using NEH guidelines, the selection committee will include a participant from a recent institute, a local scholar familiar with the subject, and the director.
  • Applicants will be chosen for their strong applications and experience.

How to Apply

Applicants must apply directly to the dedicated institute email address at All application materials should be sent directly to the project, as applications sent to the NEH will not be reviewed. Applications may be submitted up to two programs, but participants may only take part in one program.

Applicants wishing to mail forms should address them to Graham Hodges, Department of History, Colgate University, 13 Oak Drive, Hamilton NY 13346 and indicate on the outside envelope that the contents include an NEH Institute application. 

Application Materials

Applications should include a letter of introduction indicating choice of institute, qualifications, reasons for selecting this institute, past institutes (if relevant), a brief resume, and two letters of recommendation. 


  • All application materials must arrive by March 1, 2022.
  • Applicants will be notified of decisions regarding admission to the institute on March 25.
  • Participants must inform the director of their decision to accept an offer of admission by April 8, 2022. 

Additional Information

Once an applicant has accepted an offer to attend any NEH Summer Program (Seminar, Institute, or Landmark), they may not accept an additional offer or withdraw in order to accept a different offer. Project applicants who accept an offer to participate are expected to remain during the entire period of the program and to participate in its work on a full-time basis. If a participant is obliged through special circumstances to depart before the end of the program, it shall be the recipient institution’s responsibility to see that only a pro rata share of the stipend is received or that the appropriate pro rata share of the stipend is returned if the participant has already received the full stipend. Participants are required to submit a project evaluation. 

Depending on public-health guidelines related to COVID-19, plans for a residential offering are subject to change. At this time, Colgate University requires that all persons arriving at and using campus facilities be fully vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus and be able to show proof of their vaccination and a recent negative test.

Principles of Civility

Participants are required to show respect for the views of others, as indicated in the NEH website.

Equal Opportunity Statement

Equal Opportunity Statement: Endowment programs do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or age. For further information, write to the Equal Opportunity Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities, 400 7th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024. TDD: 202-606-8282 (this is a special telephone device for the Deaf).