Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Madam C. J. Walker Developed Hair-Care Products for Black Women, from VOA

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH:I'm Shirley Griffith.

RICH KLEINFELDT: And I'm Rich Kleinfeldt with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Every week, we tell the story of someone important in the history of the United States. Today we tell about Madam C. J. Walker. She was a businesswoman, the first female African American to become very rich.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In the early nineteen hundreds, life for most African-Americans was very difficult. Mobs of white people attacked and killed black people. It was legal to separate groups of people by race. Women, both black and white, did not have the same rights as men.

Black women worked very long hours for little wages. They worked mostly as servants or farm workers. Or they washed clothes. Madam C. J. Walker worked as a washerwoman for twenty years. She then started her own business of developing and selling hair-care products for black women.

Madam Walker, however, did more than build a successful business. Her products helped women have a better sense of their own beauty. Her business also gave work to many black women. And, she helped other people, especially black artists and civil rights supporters. She said: "My object in life is not simply to make money for myself or to spend it on myself. I love to use a part of what I make in trying to help others. "


RICH KLEINFELDT: Madam C. J. Walker was very poor for most of her life.

She was born Sarah Breedlove in the southern state of Louisiana in eighteen sixty-seven. Her parents were former slaves. The family lived and worked on a cotton farm along the Mississippi River. Cotton was a crop that grew well in the rich, dark soil near the river.

Most children of slaves did not go to school. They had to work. By the time Sarah was five years old, she was picking cotton in the fields with her family. She also helped her mother and sister earn money by washing clothes for white people.

There was no water or machine to wash clothes in their home. The water from the Mississippi River was too dirty. So, they used rainwater. Sarah helped her mother and sister carry water to fill big wooden containers. They heated the water over the fire. Then they rubbed the clothes on flat pieces of wood, squeezed out the water and hung each piece to dry. It was hard work. The wet clothes were heavy, and the soap had lye in it. Lye is a strong substance that cleaned the clothes well. But it hurt people's skin.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: When Sarah was seven years old, her parents died of the disease yellow fever. She and her sister moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi. At the age of fourteen, Sarah married Moses McWilliams. They had a daughter after they were married for three years. They named their daughter Lelia. Two years later, Moses McWilliams died in an accident.

Sarah was alone with her baby. She decided to move to Saint Louis, Missouri. She had heard that washerwomen earned more money there. Sarah washed clothes all day. At night, she went to school to get the education she had missed as a child. She also made sure that her daughter Lelia went to school. Sarah saved enough money to send Lelia to college.

Sarah began to think about how she was going to continue to earn money in the future. What was she going to do when she grew old and her back grew weak?

She also worried about her hair. It was dry and broken. Her hair was falling out in some places on her head. Sarah tried different products to improve her hair but nothing worked. Then she got an idea. If she could create a hair product that worked for her, she could start her own business.


RICH KLEINFELDT: At the age of thirty-seven, Sarah invented a mixture that helped her hair and made curly hair straight. Some people believe that Sarah studied the hair product she used and added her own "secret" substance. But Sarah said she invented the mixture with God's help. By solving her hair problem, she had found a way to improve her life.

Sarah decided to move west to Denver, Colorado. She did not want to compete with companies in Saint Louis that made hair-care products. For the first time in her life, Sarah left the area along the Mississippi River where she was born.

Sarah found a job in Denver as a cook. She cooked and washed clothes during the day. At night she worked on her hair products. She tested them on herself and on her friends. The products helped their hair. Sarah began selling her products from house to house.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In nineteen-oh-six, she married Charles Joseph Walker. He was a newspaperman who had become her friend and adviser. From then on, Sarah used the name Madam C. J. Walker.

Madam Walker organized women to sell her hair treatment. She established Walker schools of beauty culture throughout the country to train the saleswomen. The saleswomen became known as "Walker Agents. " They became popular in black communities throughout the United States.

Madam Walker worked hard at her business. She traveled to many American cities to help sell her products. She also traveled to the Caribbean countries of Jamaica, Panama, and Cuba. Her products had become popular there, too.

RICH KLEINFELDT: Madam Walker's business grew quickly. It soon was employing three thousand people. Black women who could not attend her schools could learn the Walker hair care method through a course by mail. Hundreds, and later thousands, of black women learned her hair-care methods. Madam Walker's products helped these women earn money to educate their children, build homes and start businesses.

Madam Walker was very proud of what she had done. She said that she had made it possible "for many colored women to abandon the washtub for more pleasant and profitable occupations. "


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In nineteen-oh-eight, Madam Walker moved her business east to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh was closer to cities on the Atlantic coast with large black populations, cities such as New York, Washington, D. C. and Baltimore. Two years later, she established a laboratory and a factory in Indianapolis, Indiana. There, her products were developed and made.

Some people criticized Madam Walker's products. They accused her of straightening black women's hair to make it look like white women's hair.

Some black clergymen said that if black people were supposed to have straight hair, God would have given it to them. But Madam Walker said her purpose was to help women have healthy hair. She also said cleanliness was important. She established rules for cleanliness for her employees. Her rules later led to state laws covering jobs involving beauty treatment.

RICH KLEINFELDT: Madam C. J. Walker became very rich and famous. She enjoyed her new life. She also shared her money. She became one of the few black people at the time wealthy enough to give huge amounts of money to help people and organizations. She gave money to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to churches and to cultural centers.

Madam Walker also supported many black artists and writers. And, she worked hard to end violations against the rights of black people. In nineteen seventeen, she was part of a group that went to Washington, D. C. to meet with President Woodrow Wilson. The group urged him and Congress to make mob violence a federal crime.

In nineteen eighteen, Madam Walker finally settled in a town near New York City where she built a large, beautiful house. She continued her work, but her health began to weaken. Her doctors advised her to slow down. But she would not listen. She died the next year. She was fifty-one years old.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Madam C. J. Walker never forgot where she came from. Nor did she stop dreaming of how life could be. At a meeting of the National Negro Business League, Madam Walker explained that she was a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. "I was promoted from there to the washtub," she said. "Then I was promoted to the cook kitchen, and from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations. I have built my own factory on my own ground. "

She not only improved her own life, but that of other women in similar situations. Madam C. J. Walker explained it this way: "If I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard. "


RICH KLEINFELDT: This Special English program was written by Vivian Bournazian. I'm Rich Kleinfeldt.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week at this time for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"The Nutty Road to Success", from Edcon Publishing.

Have you ever heard of an "overnight success'? Can you think of a singer or athlete who seemed to burst out of nowhere to become a dazzling star or great hero? More often than not, these famous stars go on to explain that what looked like an "overnight success" really wasn't. It took years of practice, struggle, and sacrifice.

With the campaign of President Jimmy Carter, a Georgia peanut farmer, the peanut, often thought of as a lowly and useless thing, gained "overnight success." Across the country, peanut books, peanut jewelry, peanut songs, and peanut jokes came into fashion. But as people got to know peanuts better, they realized that this "overnight success," like so many others, was the result of years of effort: approximately five thousand years, and possibly more.

Archaeologists have long been at work discovering when and where peanuts and people first got together. The search has yielded some very interesting results. Apparently, peanuts originated in South America long before the dawn of history. They were growing wild there when the first tribes arrived from Asia and searched for food. One specimen has been found that goes back approximately 3800 years! Later specimens include peanuts that were buried alongside the Inca people of Peru in tombs that date back to 750 B.C. Found in jars and bowls, these peanuts were so well preserved by the dry climate of Peru that one archaeologist was able to roast and eat some of these nearly 3000-year-old peanuts!

The Incas had a great deal of respect for their peanut crops and often used peanuts in religious ceremonies. They also used peanut oil to cure jungle diseases. But with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, Incas and peanuts fell upon hard times. The Spaniards believed peanuts were fit only for animals, children, and slaves. Anyone who appreciated really fine food would never include peanuts on the menu.

Even so, peanuts sailed along with Spanish and Portuguese merchants and
colonists to Europe, Africa, and Asia. About a hundred years later, after an around-the-world journey, peanuts returned to America, North America this time, on the slave ships arriving from Africa.

A hardy plant whose health-giving fruit could be stored for long periods without spoiling, the peanut was still thought of as the food of only humble people and animals. Plantation slaves often cultivated their own peanut patches and shared the roasted treat with the plantation owners' children. But the bulk of the peanut crop was meant for livestock, especially pigs who often dug out their own feed at peanut harvest time.

Humble people and the humblest of plants continued to serve each other throughout the Civil War. Southern soldiers gobbled peanuts when little else was available. Northern soldiers developed a taste for the "new" food and brought home samples. Soon, peanuts became a favorite snack at ball games, circuses, and other places of amusement. They were sold on street corners from New York to San Francisco as well, often by poor immigrants and handicapped peddlers.

Real progress for the peanut began when it rescued much of the South from starvation early in this century. Insects destroyed all cotton crops - the major source of income. At the urging of George Washington Carver, many farmers planted peanuts and reaped abundant harvests. But the path of the peanut has always been wobbly and this time was no exception. The South suddenly had more peanuts than it knew what to do with.

Once again it fell to Dr. Carver to come up with a solution. The gentle genius responded with 300 uses for the peanut, including shaving cream, axle grease, printer's ink, and gasoline. Carver noted that while 100 pounds of cow's milk makes 10 pounds of cheese, 100 pounds of peanut milk can make 35 pounds of cheese. Many of Carver's ideas were not easily put to work, but the publicity alone helped advance the peanut's cause.

Another great step forward came with the invention, of modern farming equipment and new machinery for shelling, cleaning, and preparing peanuts for the market. As the 20th century progressed, peanut production and use grew steadily until today 3,000,000 acres of land around the world are used for growing peanuts.
Peanuts are now found on the menus of the finest restaurants. One elegant dish is "Cream of Peanut Soup." Frozen peanut pie became a favorite airline dessert, while peanut butter sandwiches have flown even higher as high energy food for astronauts. Carter family guests have nibbled on french fried peanuts in the Georgia Governor's Mansion and the White House.

But the peanut is still working hard among the friends of its humbler days. Experiments in the United States, Africa, and Asia have produced low cost foods from the peanut that have saved countless people from starvation. Hungry babies and invalids have grown strong on peanut milk and cheese products, while medicines made from parts of the peanut give hope to sufferers of heart disease and other serious illnesses.

Following the lead of George Washington Carver, scientists from New Orleans to India are at work discovering new uses for the world's peanut crop, as well as developing peanut types that are even more hardy and healthful than those of the past. Modern industry uses peanuts in many ways, including the manufacture of fertilizer, shoe polish, and paper. Even the shells have found a place in industry. A Georgia factory now uses them to produce charcoal, a valuable new fuel much needed as our energy sources run low.

In the rush of publicity surrounding President Carter's campaign, many Americans learned for the first time that peanuts do not grow on trees. In fact, the peanut is not really a nut at all, but a relative of peas and beans. Unlike peas and beans, however, peanuts grow underground. A typical peanut plant grows about eighteen inches tall and produces, very close to the ground, a number of tiny yellow flowers. As each flower fades, a shoot grows outward from its base and burrows underground.

These amazing shoots are called "pegs" and their burrowing process is known as "pegging." Beneath the soil, the tips of the pegs turn sidewards and begin to swell. This is the start of each individual peanut. A single peanut plant may produce over a hundred peanuts.

If you have a large container, good soil, a sunny window, and peanut seed, you can grow your own peanut crop right on your windowsill. Most seed companies offer peanut seed and directions for planting, while cookbooks and other books about peanuts will tell you how to harvest your crop and prepare it in many delicious ways.

On the average, each American eats about nine pounds of peanuts a year. That might not sound like much, but look at it another way. In the United States alone, more than four million pounds of peanuts are eaten every day. They may be roasted or salted, in peanut butter or in candy, in ice cream or in any of hundreds of other treats.

Long an object of scorn or a source of amusement, the humble peanut has finally stepped into the spotlight. As a performer of serious duties, it contributes to the health and pleasure of people around the world. An "overnight success" can be five thousand years in the making!

Comprehension Check

1. Peanuts seemed to gain "overnight success" ________
a. when they were gobbled up by soldiers during the Civil War.
b. with the campaign of President Jimmy Carter.
c. with the discovery that peanuts were used in religious ceremonies.
d. with the studies of George Washington Carver.

2. Peanuts probably' originated _______
a. in Asia.
b. in Georgia.
c. in Europe.
d. in South America.

3. With the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, the Incas and the peanut both __________
a. received little respect.
b. received great respect.
c. were brought to Africa.
d. were used in religious ceremonies.

4. Northern soldiers brought home samples of peanuts ______
a. after the farmers reaped abundant harvests.
b. before the Civil War.
c. after George Washington Carver urged farmers to plant peanuts.
d. after the Civil War.

5. Real progress for the peanut began ______
a. when handicapped peddlers needed jobs.
b. when many people demanded more peanuts.
c. when there were problems with another crop.
d. when all of Carver's ideas were put to work.

6. As more uses are discovered for' the world's peanut crop, it is likely that _________
a. peanuts will become more valuable.
b. peanuts will become less valuable.
c. peanuts will be forgotten.
d. peanuts will be used mostly for fuel.

7. A great step forward for the peanut came with ______
a. the serving of french fried peanuts in the White House.
b. the invention of new machinery for handling peanuts.
c. the serving of frozen peanut pie on airlines.
d. the use of peanut butter by astronauts.

8. The peanut would probably be of most interest to people with occupations in the field of _____
a. entertainment.
b. politics.
c. fuel supply.
d. world health.

9. Another name for this selection could be _____
a. "Carter and Carver, Peanut Men."
b. "The Peanut Steps into the Spotlight."
c. "New Uses for Lowly Plants."
d. "Too Many Peanuts."

10. This selection is mainly about ______
a. the popularity and value of the peanut.
b. the many uses of the peanut.
c. President Carter's campaign.
d. the growth process of the peanut plant.

Monday, March 8, 2010

"The Unsinkable Molly Brown" from Voice of America.

Margaret Brown lived an interesting social and political life, but not all of the stories about the Titanic survivor are true.

MARIO RITTER: Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Mario Ritter.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I'm Shirley Griffith. Margaret Brown was a social and political activist in the formative years of the modern American West. Her biggest claim to fame was surviving the Titanic. This week on our program, we tell the story of the woman remembered as "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."


MARIO RITTER: Margaret Brown lived an interesting life, but not all the stories about her are true. For example, a Denver newspaper reporter named Gene Fowler wrote that she survived a tornado as a baby, refused to attend school and chewed tobacco.

Fowler wrote about Brown and others in his book "Timber Line," published after her death in nineteen thirty-two.

Kristen Iversen is an English professor and author of "Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth." She says the stories did contain some truth, though, which is that Brown went West to follow a dream and that dream came true.

In the nineteen sixty-four movie "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" she was played by Debbie Reynolds.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The nickname "Molly" was largely a Hollywood invention, says her biographer. Kristen Iversen says Brown did not like it. The name "Molly" was often used as an insult for an Irish girl, and nobody in her own life called her that.

She was known as Maggie in her hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. She was born Margaret Tobin in eighteen sixty-seven, two years after the Civil War ended. Her Irish-born parents had socially progressive beliefs.

At that time, American women could not own property or vote. They did not get much education. And they rarely traveled far by themselves. But during her lifetime much of that changed.

MARIO RITTER: In eighteen eighty-six, Maggie Tobin left home for the town of Leadville, Colorado, to join a sister and brother who already lived there. Leadville had gold, silver and copper mines. At that time it was one of the fastest growing places in the country.

She sewed carpets and curtains for a local dry goods company.

She is shown singing in a barroom in both the movie and nineteen sixty Broadway musical "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."


Here is biographer Kristen Iversen.

KRISTEN IVERSEN: "She did have a great sense of humor. She enjoyed being around people. But she was very serious, very motivated, very hard working type of person and really a kind of good Catholic girl her entire life. And that barroom saloon girl image is pretty different from the kind of person she really was. So one thing the myth does is it really diminishes that aspect of her life."

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The story of her life became linked to romantic ideas about gold mining in the American West and the dream of getting rich quick.

In eighteen eighty-six Maggie Tobin married James Joseph Brown, J.J. for short. He was thirty-one years old; she was nineteen. He was a mine manager in Leadville who developed a way to safely mine for gold deeper than before.

The popular story is that J.J. got rich soon after they married. Kristen Iversen says he did become rich, but not until they had been married for seven years and had two children.

Margaret Tobin Brown

In eighteen ninety-four the Browns bought a house in Denver, Colorado. The popular story is that rich families in Denver society did not accept them because they had been poor and lacked education.

MARIO RITTER: Kristen Iversen says Denver's most conservative social club did exclude them for a time. But she says the Browns were a big part of Denver society. Margaret became involved in social and political events, hosting dinners to raise money for charities.

She traveled around the world and sent her children to school in France. She learned foreign languages and took college classes. She also began to speak out for progressive causes.

She worked toward social change through the women’s reform movement. She raised money for schools and the poor. And she worked with a judge in Denver to establish the first court in the country to deal only with young people.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In nineteen twelve Margaret Brown was a passenger on the Titanic on its first and only trip. The huge ship hit an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic. More than one thousand five hundred people died, while just over seven hundred survived.

Brown was played by Kathy Bates in James Cameron's "Titanic." In this scene, she tries to get the other women in her lifeboat to go back and rescue people from the water.

MOLLY BROWN: "C'mon girls, grab an oar, let's go!"

CREWMAN: "Are you out of your mind? We're in the middle of the North Atlantic. Now do you people want to live, or do you want to die?"

MOLLY BROWN: "I don't understand a one of ya. What's the matter with ya? It's your men out there. There’s plenty of room for more."

CREWMAN: "And there'll be one less on this boat if you don't shut that hole in your face."

In real life, Brown is credited with keeping people's spirits up in the lifeboat until they were rescued by another ship, the Carpathia.

Margaret Brown with Captain A.H. Rostron. He
was awarded for the Carpathia's prompt rescue
of Titanic's survivors

Later, she raised money to help poor immigrant women who had been passengers on the lower levels of the Titanic. She also raised money for the crew of the Carpathia. She became president of the Titanic Survivors Club and helped build a memorial in Washington.

MARIO RITTER: So who started calling her "unsinkable"? Some say she described herself that way after the disaster. Kristen Iversen says that is not true. She says a Denver newspaper reporter first called her the unsinkable Mrs. Brown in a story. The New York Times called her the heroine of the Titanic.

KRISTEN IVERSEN: ”The thing about the Titanic experience, what happened with the Titanic experience and the recognition she got from the New York Times in particular was that it gave her a platform from which to talk about some of the political and social issues --miners’ rights, women’s rights, the development of the juvenile court system, that sort of thing. It gave her an international platform to talk about some of those things.”

She actively worked for the right of women to vote in federal elections. Colorado gave women the right to vote in eighteen ninety-three, but that did not happen nationally until nineteen twenty. Brown ran for Congress twice in the early nineteen hundreds but lost both times.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The popular story of Molly Brown is that she was on the Titanic returning home to a happy life with her husband. In reality, their marriage had already failed.

Kristen Iversen says one of their major problems was that Brown was socially progressive and her husband was not.

KRISTEN IVERSEN: "He felt that a woman’s name -- and she wrote about his -- that a woman’s name should appear in the newspaper when she married and when she died. And Margaret Tobin Brown liked to see her name in the newspaper for a lot of reasons."

The couple never legally divorced because of their Catholic faith, but they did sign a separation agreement. J.J. Brown died in nineteen twenty-two.

MARIO RITTER: During World War One, Margaret Brown went to France to help with the American medical ambulance system. She earned the French Legion of Honor for her work with the American Committee of Devastated France.

In the last years of her life, she traveled and performed on the stage. She also studied and taught acting. In nineteen twenty-nine she received the Palm of the Academy, a French honor, in recognition of her work in dramatic arts.

Margaret Brown died in nineteen thirty-two while staying at the famous Barbizon Hotel in New York City. She was sixty-five years old. The discovery of a brain cancer after her death explained the severe headaches in the final years of her life.

The "Molly Brown House"

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In nineteen seventy, the city of Denver bought the house where she had lived. Each year about fifty thousand people visit the Molly Brown House. They learn how a wealthy American family lived at the start of the twentieth century. And they learn about the real Molly Brown.

To biographer Kristen Iversen, Brown represents other women who also worked for social progress but whose lives "are invisible to history." So what lesson is there to learn from the myth of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown?"

KRISTEN IVERSEN: "I think the story in some ways tells us what we want to think of ourselves as an American. That is, this kind of pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, that with enough determination and hard work that you can transcend limitations of money or class or gender. And that’s part of the myth and I think that’s also part of the reality of her story.

"So it’s a very inspirational story. There are so many aspects of the myth that are not true. Yet I think the myth story itself speaks to her spirit and speaks to some of the ways we like to think of ourselves as Americans.”


MARIO RITTER: Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Mario Ritter.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I'm Shirley Griffith. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs are at voaspecialenglish.com, where you can also post comments. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.


1. "Unraveling a myth" means "_____________________ ."
a: Telling a story
b: Writing a biography
c: Finding in a story what is true and what is not
d: Reaching the end of a story

2. Margaret Tobin Brown probably didn't ________________ .
a: learn a foreign language
b: survive a tornado as a baby
c: survive the sinking of the Titantic
d: move to Leadville, Colorado

3. Margaret Tobin Brown's politics was socially progressive. She believed ___________________.
a: women should have the right to vote
b: women's names should appear in the newspaper only when they married and died
c: miners should not have the right to bargain for wages
d: juveniles should be tried as adults

4. After the Titantic hit an iceberg, Maggie Brown entered a life boat. Then, ___________ .
a: she quarreled with those who wanted to pick up people in the water
b: her lifeboat began to sink
c: she talked to her fellow passengers about progressive causes
d: she kept people's spirits up until the Carpathia arrived

5. Margaret and J.J. Brown _____________________________________ .
a: were in complete agreement about socially progressive issues
b: became very wealthy after seven years of marriage
c: were legally divorced before World War One
d: were never accepted by Denver's exclusive conservative social club

6. James Joseph Brown was never _______________________________.
a: an innovative mine manager
b: opposed to his wife's progressive agenda
c: a passenger on the Titantic
d: a wealthy member of Denver society

7. Margaret Tobin would have objected to the saloon girl portrayal of her in the 1960 Broadway musical because ___________________________ .
a: she had a great sense of humor
b: she was serious, hard working, and a good Catholic
c: she enjoyed being around people
d: she didn't know anything about performing on stage

8. Margaret Brown became famous because she __________________________.
a: married J.J. Brown
b: changed living conditions for the poor in Denver, Colorado
c: survived the sinking of the Titanic
d: lived in a still standing mansion in Denver, Colorado

9. When Maggie arrived in Leadville, Colorado______________________ .
a: she got a job a a local dry goods company sewing carpets and curtains
b: she met J.J. Brown and married him
c: became a popular singer in the local saloon
d: taught French and History at the local school

10. Margaret Tobin didn't like the name "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" because __________ .
a: she knew she was not really unsinkable
b: the name "Molly" was often used as an insult for an Irish girl
c: she preferred her family name, "Tobin"
d: she didn't want to be reminded of the trauma of the sinking of the Titanic

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"The Golden Pharaoh" from Edcon Publishing.

People you will read about: Tutankhamun: an Egyptian king around 1358 B.C.

Howard Carter - the archaeologist who discovered the tomb of King Tut.

Things you will read about:

Pharaohs: kings of ancient Egypt.

Valley of the Kings: an area on the west bank of the Nile River which was used as a cemetery for Pharaohs.

The magnificence of Egyptian culture is reflected by the treasure of
Tutankhamun's tomb.

The procession wound its way slowly across the dry wasteland of the Valley of the Kings, past limestone cliffs that concealed the tombs of Egypt's greatest rulers. At last, it reached the head of the Valley and halted before the entrance to a small, four-room tomb. There the coffin was taken from the great sled that had carried it across the sandy waste and the final ceremonies began.

The heavy coffin of the young king, the Pharaoh, was taken carefully through the narrow doorway and placed within a golden shrine. The young widow placed a last gift on the coffin, a small wreath of spring flowers. The shrine was closed, and into the outer rooms were crammed the furniture, jewels, food, chariots and weapons that the king would need for eternal life. Then the small tomb was sealed, the last obstacles put in the way of robbers, and for more than 3,000 years Tutankhamun was left in darkness.

In a time of violence his very name was almost forgotten. Then, centuries later, two men burst into world headlines when they announced the finding of the tomb. King Tut, as the newspapers called him, became famous. His body now rests in its tomb in the Valley of the Kings, but his golden treasure is in an Egyptian museum, and some of the most exciting pieces have traveled abroad to the world's greatest museums. People flock to see them, sometimes standing in line for hours. Although Tutankhamun was not an important Pharaoh, the beauty of his fabulous treasure has enchanted people on all continents.

Few facts are known about Tutankhamun. He began his reign when he was about nine years old. We know that he was married to a beautiful princess, that he loved sports and hunted from his chariot, that he wore rich clothes and that he played board games. His reign lasted about ten years, so he was only nineteen when he died. We do not even know the cause of his death. His health was delicate, but a hunting accident or even murder in those times of violence in Egypt was not impossible.

Why, then, has the name of this not very important king become so well known? One reason is that his was the only tomb to keep its secret for so long. Other royal tombs may have contained greater treasure but they were plundered very early, perhaps soon after the burials. Whole villages lived by stealing from royal tombs, so that modern archaeologists have found only what thieves did not want or could not carry away. King Tut's tomb did not escape the ancient grave robbers and they probably carried away a small fortune in valuables. They must have been interrupted before reaching the inner shrine. So Tutankhamun rested in darkness and for many years no one suspected that his tomb lay under the pile of rubbish discarded from the building of a later tomb. Then came modern archaeologists seeking the royal tomb.

One was Howard Carter, with many years of digging experience in Egypt. He was convinced that Tutankhamun's tomb lay somewhere in the Valley of the Kings, but much of the area had been dug up already. He formed an alliance with Lord Carnavon, a wealthy Englishman, whose hobby was archaeology. They dug for several years without finding anything important.

Now it was late 1922. The digging season had to be short, for the summer sun made the valley a furnace, while the winds blew gusts of choking sand. Only one promising area was left. but it was small, covered by tons of dirt left by ancient workers building a later pharaoh's tomb. To reach the rock beneath the sand, workers would have to carry out basket after basket of earth. It would be a long job but worth trying.
To add to Carter's troubles, Lord Carnavon, discouraged by the failure to find anything important, was about to cut off funds for the work. Carter persuaded him to continue for just a little while longer, then put men to work on the huge mound of dirt and rocks. Meanwhile, Carnavon returned to England.

It was November 4th and digging was about to be halted, perhaps forever, when Carter was told that a stone step had been discovered directly beneath the tomb of the later pharaoh. Excitedly, the men uncovered more steps, sixteen in all. At the bottom was a sealed door. Carter cautiously made a small hole near the top of the door and when he flashed a light through it, he saw a slanting corridor blocked with rocks and dirt. He went no further but had his men cover the steps again. After posting trusted sentries on guard duty, he cabled Carnavon, telling him to return as soon as possible.

When Carnavon arrived, the steps were cleared and the door, which bore the seal of Tutankhamun, was opened. The piles of dirt that filled the corridor were the last obstacle before the second door. These were removed and while Carnavon stood by, Howard Carter made a small opening in the door and held a candle to the opening. As the stale air rushed out, the flame flickered, then steadied. Carter could not speak, dazzled by the gold the small light revealed.

They removed the door carefully and stood in the midst of treasure over 3,000 years old. Heaped in every part of the room were all the things the king would need for eternal life. The room had been plundered, but only of jewels and easily carried valuables. Chariots, furniture, bows and arrows, chests of clothing and food were everywhere. And everywhere was the gleam of gold. But had the robbers reached the mummy, or body of the king? If not, this would be the first royal body never disturbed.

Each treasure had to be removed with extreme care for everything was so fragile that it could crumble at a touch. Months passed before Carter was able to work through to the great golden shrine that nearly filled the burial chamber. When at last they could see that the doors of the glittering shrine had not been opened, the archaeologists breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, they allowed themselves to believe that they would actually see the mummy of the Pharaoh.

Much work still lay ahead, for the body had been placed in three nested coffins and the coffins in a great stone box. Each lid had to be removed carefully in turn. The third coffin struck everyone speechless for it was of solid gold,as was the funeral mask covering the head of the mummy. On one coffin was a tiny wreath of spring blossoms, faded and fragile, perhaps placed there by the young widow.

Lord Carnavon, sad to say, died before the mummy itself came to light. Sensation seeking newspapers promptly blamed his death on "the mummy's curse," and played up the deaths of some other expedition members during the several years the work was going on. Yet Howard Carter, who had the most to do with the whole project, lived until 1939. The doctor who handled the body most was over eighty when he died.

When Carter held that candle up to the door, he never dreamed that it would take him ten years of hard work to clear and study the tomb. However, his work revealed much about the Egyptians, who might consider Tutankhamun the only pharaoh to live a happy, eternal life; his body safe and surrounded by all he needed for comfort and happiness.

Comprehension Check. Choose the answer and place it in the text box below.

1. One thing we do know about Tutankhamun is that ______
a. he liked simple things.
b. he liked sports.
c. he liked spicy foods.
d. he became king at nineteen.

2. Howard Carter believed he would find Tutankhamun's tomb in _____
a. the Nile Delta.
b. a tomb far from the other tombs.
c. the Valley of the Kings.
d. England,near his own home.

3. Below the tomb of a later pharaoh, Carter ______
a. found a map that he interpreted.
b. discovered a flame.
c. found remains of thieves.
d. saw sixteen steps and a sealed door.

4. The coffin that left everyone speechless was ______
a. the first one.
b. the second one.
c. the third one.
d. the only one.

5. The author's purpose for writing this selection was to ______
a. indicate why digging in summer is best.
b. inform us about what was in different tombs.
c. explain how Tutankhamun's tomb was found.
d. encourage students to become archaeologists.

6. We know from this selection that Tutankhamun's tomb _____
a. was impossible to locate.
b. was built below a later tomb.
c. made all the archaeologists die.
d. was found before most other tombs.

7. This selection leads us to believe that Howard Carter _____
a. was a failure.
b. was experienced and lucky.
c. knew all along where the tomb was.
d. died at a young age.

8. This was the only royal body ______
a. with gold around it.
b. never disturbed.
c. buried with the furniture.
d. buried by the Egyptians.

9. Another name for this selection could be _____
a. "How to Find a Tomb."
b. "The Life of Howard Carter."
c. "Discovering an Ancient Tomb."
d. "Clearing Away 3,000 Years of Dirt."

10. This selection is mainly about ______
a. the discovery of King Tut's tomb.
b. the problems faced by an archaeologist.
c. treasures of Egypt.
d a mysterious mummy.

This story is an article from a series of Reading Comprehension Workbooks by Edcon Publishing Group. Edcon Publishing has a very large selection of different types of readings and other
materials for learning. I highly recommend this company. - The Teacher

Tutankhamun in Wikipedia
Tutankhamun at Digital Egypt

The first of a series of 9 videos about the history of Tutankhamun from
the BBC (British Broadcasting Company)