Archive for the ‘American History’ Category

h1

Lessons for Dr. King’s Day

January 18, 2010

As we observe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, agencies and organizations collaborating with the Indiana Humanities Council offer these online teaching and learning resources:

Bill of Rights Institute – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Facing History and Ourselves – Eyes on the Prize Lesson 1, The Philosophy of Nonviolence

Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History – Robert Kennedy’s Speech on Martin Luther King’s Death

Indiana Department of Education – The Ideas of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Indianapolis-Marion Co. Public Library – Kids’ Info Guide, Martin Luther King Jr.

National Archives & Records Administration – Official Program for the March on Washington (1963)

National Endowment for the Humanities – Let Freedom Ring: The Life & Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

National Park Service – Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

PBS – Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1985

h1

What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: The Lost Symbol

December 10, 2009

I just read Dan Brown’s newest book, The Lost Symbol — even though it was published in September. Here’s why: I like to buy the editions of Brown’s books that come out after they make the movie, with all the gorgeous illustrations and photographs of locations like Rome and Paris. Knowing that I will eventually purchase such a volume for The Lost Symbol, I decided to get the first edition out of the library. I put my name on the reservation list, where I was number 749 in line, and I just got a copy. Loved it, love all his books, usually read them in a day or two (509 pages), and evidently so do a lot of other people.

Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times: “Brown has always written screenplays masquerading as novels.” Clearly, that’s the first type of appeal in Brown’s fast-paced, suspenseful stories. He has a knack of ending a chapter with one of his characters in such a predicament that you have to skip ahead and find out how they got out of it. The second attraction in Brown’s novels is provided by Robert Langdon, his Harvard professor hero (played by Tom Hanks), in the form of arcane but fascinating historical, cultural, and artistic trivia. This erudition did not impress Time Magazine’s Lou Grossman, who commented: “Brown’s scholarship reads like the work of a man who believes what he reads in Wikipedia.”

I, however, enjoy the places Brown takes you in his whirlwind tours of famous cities. In the case of The Lost Symbol, the story is set in Washington, D.C., a place whose treasures are far more valuable than whatever the villain and hero are chasing after in the novel. Behind the scenes at the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and the United States Capitol, there is a world of documents, artworks, and artifacts, amazing in its scope and depth. To meet the people who care for and know about them is a true pleasure. The book’s website includes a Reader’s Guide to Washington, D.C., with more about these national landmarks.

I also like Brown’s puzzles, codes, and encryptions, which are always entertaining. The key puzzle in The Lost Symbol is “a perfectly square grid of symbols from every tradition imaginable — alchemical, astrological, heraldic, angelic, magical, numeric, sigilic, Greek, Latin.” The 64 symbols in the 8 by 8 grid are somewhat familiar: a row of symbols for the planets, symbols of the great religions, astrological signs. (Mine is Gemini, which looks like the Roman numeral II.) You probably have access to many of these symbols — just open up Word and change your font to Symbols or Wingdings, and you may be able to recreate Brown’s code!

Anyway, I should stop here and return my copy to the library. There’s still a waiting list with 372 eager readers on it.

h1

Sail the ocean blue…or at least search the Resource Connection

October 5, 2009

“In 1492 Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue …” Many of us learned that rhyme as small children or taught it to our children, but few of us have really pondered the relevance of the man behind the “discovery” of the America. To celebrate Columbus Day, (Oct. 12), we traversed the mighty Resource Connection.

The Resource Connection has a lot of great resources to help you learn more about Columbus, including lesson plans from the National Endowment for Humanities and Center for Innovation in Assessment, and a Seeds of Change Garden online exhibit from the Smithsonian Institute that lets you learn more about the types of food the explorers grew.

Check out these resources and find out more about the man behind the nursery rhyme.

h1

Meandering Indiana 16 – Spencer County

September 28, 2009

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
Spencer County, Indiana, is Abraham Lincoln country, the locale of his boyhood home. In preparation for the Lincoln Bicentennial, I have had the opportunity to take many trips to Spencer County, but two were especially memorable.

My first visit to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial was a tour guided by site superintendent Randy Wester. From the memorial building, with its large sculptured limestone panels depicting phases in Lincoln’s life, we walked across a landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., then up a hill to the Nancy Hanks Lincoln gravesite. A sense of peacefulness and remembrance seemed to hold these places apart from time. Randy pointed out that the site was a National Memorial, not a park or a monument.

The second occasion I remember vividly was a tour led by Bill Bartelt, author of There I Grew Up: Remembering Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Youth. Bill, a teacher who spent many summers as a park ranger, had studied not only the life of Lincoln but also the land he must have walked in southern Indiana.

Path in Spencer CountyCrossing over to Lincoln State Park, which adjoins the National Memorial, Bill led us to a wide path in the woods that was once a primitive road connecting one frontier settlement to another. As we stood among the trees, with hardly anything modern in sight, it was not difficult to imagine a teenaged boy of the 1820s, sauntering along this path on his way back from an errand.

Last night Ken Burns’ latest project, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea premiered on PBS. Lincoln Boyhood was the first national park established in Indiana when, in 1962, it was transferred from the jurisdiction of the state to the National Park Service. Not only are our national parks amazing resources that we all can share, but we can also access NPS.gov, a rich online resource for discovering history, exploring nature, and continuing to learn about our country.

h1

What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: There I Grew Up

September 9, 2009

The long weekend gave me the chance to finish William E. Bartelt’s book on Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana years. At almost exactly the time when Indiana became a state (Dec. 1816), the Lincoln family moved across the Ohio River to their new home in southwestern Indiana. Abe was 7 years old. He remained a Hoosier until the Lincolns moved west to Illinois when he was 21.

Bartelt has collected much of the original source material related to what we know about Lincoln in Indiana, but he has also researched and interpreted those stories and testimonies, with additions and corrections. The result is a readable, well-illustrated text that describes this extraordinary individual in the context of his family, his community, and his moment in Indiana history.

Hoosier Youth by Manship

Hoosier Youth by Manship


Lincoln wrote about himself: “We reached our new home about the time the State came into the Union. It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up.” And also: “He settled in an unbroken forest; and the clearing away of surplus wood was the great task ahead. A. though very young, was large of his age, and had an axe put into his hands at once . . . .” The natural environment and frontier conditions were primitive, but soon a small community around Little Pigeon Creek began to form as families claimed land in early Perry and Spencer counties.

If young Abe had an axe in one hand, he had a book in the other. With little formal education, he nonetheless learned to read, write, and cipher. Determined to improve himself, he read all the books he could beg or borrow. Bartelt provides a list of books he probably read, including Pilgrim’s Progress, Robinson Crusoe, and biographies of Washington and Ben Franklin. Abe also read newspapers and wrote essays (on temperance and animal cruelty, for example). Popular and well able to hold an audience, he used his natural gifts to entertain and to persuade by making speeches and telling stories.

It was both a privilege and a pleasure to spend some time getting to know a young man on his way to history and a young state on its way from woods to fields.

William E. Bartelt. “There I Grew Up”: Remembering Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Youth. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press, 2008.