Big Dipper

“Follow the drinkin’ gourd
Well the river bank makes a mighty good road
Dead trees will show you the way
Left foot, peg foot, travelin’ on
Follow the drinkin’ gourd”
- Follow The Drinkin’ Gourd, an American folklore song

From approximately 1810 to 1850, many Black slaves used the Big Dipper (also known as the Drinking Gourd) as a guide to finding the North Star (also known as Polaris) in the night sky. The star pointed North, which was critical in guiding many to Northern America to gain freedom.


Although the North Star is not the brightest star in the sky, it remains in the same spot in the northern sky all year long. Thus, the North Star was a reliable tool for navigation.