History Professor Creating Video Game on the Underground Railroad

Cassandra Newby-Alexander, associate professor of history at Norfolk State University, is developing a new video game based on the Underground Railroad. Professor Newby-Alexander wants to use the game to teach people about the Underground Railroad and put to rest many misconceptions about its operation. She notes that the Underground Railroad was much more than a series of country hideaways where escaped slaves stopped on their way north. Many slaves escaped from the South on boats that traveled on rivers and the Atlantic Ocean.

Her new game, financed by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, will require players to make some tough decisions on which route to take, who to bribe, and who to trust. The game can end with a successful escape, recapture and a return to slavery, imprisonment, or death.

She hopes to have the game completed in two years.

Professor Newby-Alexander is no stranger to the study of the Underground Railroad. In 2003 she started a multimedia project entitled “Waterways to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in Virginia.” She also established a Web site called Race, Time, Place, which documents the history of African Americans in the Tidewater region of Virginia.

Professor Newby-Alexander is a graduate of the University of Virginia. In 1992 she was only the second African American to earn a Ph.D. in history from the College of William and Mary.