Drinking Gourd Elementary School

Our Name & Our History

About Our Name

Our school is named after the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd” and the tradition it is based upon. “Follow the Drinking Gourd” is a song created by African-Americans who were enslaved in the United States. The Drinking Gourd is the name they gave to the constellation Ursa Major, which is also known as the Big Dipper.

The song “Follow the Drinking Gourd” is full of clues for how to escape north. It is possible, by following the line of the “cup” part of the Drinking Gourd, to find the North Star. People escaping slavery used this star to find their way north to freedom. One part of the song tells that it is a good idea to go “when the first quail calls.” The people were not allowed to talk to each other while working in the fields, for fear they would make escape plans. But they were allowed to sing, as it was thought to make them work faster. So they invented songs like “Follow the Drinking Gourd.

From the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd” our school draws inspiration to share our knowledge, to help each other grow to reach our fullest potential, and to fight against oppression.



The Drinking Gourd Elementary School was founded in 1990 by Trisha Whitney. 

The school became a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in 1999. A year later the school was awarded a grant of over $500,000 by the Equinox Foundation. This allowed the school to add the Gathering Room, Office, storage space and another classroom,         as well as expanding the Quail classroom. The expansion project was completed in 2001.