Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Phillis Wheatley, First Black Poet" from VOA.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: I'm Shirley Griffith.

RAY FREEMAN: And I'm Ray Freeman with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Every week we tell about someone important in the history of the United States.
This week we tell about Phillis Wheatley, the first black female poet in the United States.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The girl who became known as Phillis Wheatley was born about seventeen fifty-three in Senegal, Africa. She was kidnapped and brought to the New England colonies in North America on a ship that carried slaves. The ship's name was Phillis.

The girl was between seven and eight years old. She was weak and sickly. So her price was not very high. She was sold in a slave market in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, in August seventeen sixty-one. John Wheatley, an international businessman, bought her to serve his wife, Susannah.

RAY FREEMAN: Phillis came from a culture that was very different from that of the Wheatleys. She found the food, customs and beliefs to be new and strange. The other slaves in the house taught her many things about America.

Phillis quickly learned the rules of slavery. She learned that slaves could not beat drums because slave owners feared that secret messages were being passed to slaves on other farms. She learned that in Southern states it was a crime to teach a slave to read and write.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In Northern states in the seventeen hundreds, black slaves were treated better than they were in the Southern states. Restrictions against the education of slaves were not as severe as they were in the South. Many of the slaves in New England were even urged to learn to read, especially the Bible, the major book of the Christian religion. Many people thought that slaves should read the Bible so they could become better believers ofthe Christian religion.

Phillis Wheatley had fewer restrictions than most slaves Phillis Wheatley had fewer restrictions than most slaves

In New England, blacks were free to meet with each other in groups. Many times male slaves were accepted as members of the community for special projects. These included gatherings to clean corn or to build a farm house. Female slaves cooked for the groups.

RAY FREEMAN: From her earliest days as a slave, Phillis was a happy, busy person. She liked to keep busy. She especially liked to do things with her hands. She quickly learned how to clean around the Wheatley house and how to do the dishes. But her mind seemed to move even faster than her hands. She wanted to do everything.

Phillis's new family had unusual beliefs for the times. John Wheatley and his wife were educated people. Susannah Wheatley believed that all human beings, including African slaves, could learn if given the chance. She believed that all people, of any skin color, should love and respect each other. She treated Phillis more as a daughter than as a slave. Mr. Wheatley said, "You're my black child. You're my Phillis."

Susannah Wheatley soon recognized Phillis's intelligence and desire to learn. Mr. Wheatley observed how Phillis loved books and the care she took with them. At times, Phillis would smell the pages of the books and hold them close to her.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: One day, one of the slaves in the Wheatley home found Phillis writing on the wall of Mr. Wheatley's room with a piece of coal. Phillis had been cleaning the dust from a book. She decided to copy the letters from the cover of the book. The slave brought Mr. Wheatley to inspect the marks on the wall. But Susannah Wheatley did not get angry. Instead, she smiled.

Mr. Wheatley gave Phillis a pencil and paper and a little table on which to write. She showed the writing on the wall to her daughter Mary. Mary was as surprised as her mother at how well Phillis had copied the letters. Mary told Phillis she would teach her to write -- on paper, not on walls.

RAY FREEMAN: Mary Wheatley began to teach Phillis to read and write English. She also taught Phillis the Christian religion. Phillis learned quickly. She learned the English alphabet in a few weeks. In a year and one-half after she arrived in America, Phillis could read English. And she could read and understand difficult parts of the Bible.

Phillis loved to learn new words. She enjoyed the new feelings that went with the sounds. She especially liked writing and creating new ways of saying things.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Mary taught Phillis about writings from other countries. America was a young nation. It had not yet produced writers and poets like older nations.

So Phillis studied the writings of European writers. She read the work of the Greek poet Homer, the English poets Keats and Pope, and the plays and poetry of Shakespeare. She read and re-read the Bible.

Phillis was about twelve years old when she began to write poetry. One of her earliest poems was about her religious faith. It questioned how a person could not believe in God:

"Thou who dost daily feel his hand, and rod

Darest thou deny the essence of a God!

If ther's no heav'n, ah! Whither wilt thou go. ... "

RAY FREEMAN: Phillis Wheatley's first major work was "An Elegiac Poem on the Death of the Celebrated Divine." It was published in seventeen seventy. Phillis wrote the long poem to honor a famous clergyman who had died.

Wheatley's "Memoirs and Poems" was published in 1834Wheatley's "Memoirs and Poems" was published in 1834

Phillis wrote mostly about religion and morals. Many of her poems were created at the request of someone to honor a family member who had died. Her poems are representative of the times. They expressed common reactions to personal events such as deaths or marriages. Or they honored public events such as battles.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Phillis had an unusual life for a slave. Mr. Wheatley had stopped having Phillis do house cleaning jobs. She made sure Phillis had time to study and to visit the family friends. But Phillis was not permitted to make friends with other uneducated slaves. So she remained separate from both white and black worlds. While she was considered above the other black slaves, she was never considered an equal of white slave owners.

One time she was invited to dinner in the home of one of Mr. Wheatley's relations. The servants said that it was the first time they ever carried food to a woman with skin their color. But Phillis usually sat at a table separate from the white people at a dinner party.

RAY FREEMAN: Phillis Wheatley became famous in Europe as well as in America. She travelled to London in seventeen seventy-three and gave poetry readings there. She was twenty years old. The writings of the young slave from Africa surprised everyone.

During her visit in London, she was to have been presented to King George the third. But she received urgent news from America. Mr. Wheatley was very sick and had asked that Phillis return to Boston. Phillis returned home quickly.

That meant she missed the publication in London of her book poems on various subjects, religious and moral. It contained thirty-eight of her poems. It was the first published book written by a black person in America. And it was only the second book written by an American woman.

Newspapers in London highly praised her poems. Her book sold very well there and later in America.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Phillis Wheatley had one more brief period of being famous. In seventeen seventy-five, she wrote a poem about George Washington. He had become commander of the Colonial forces in the American revolution. The poem was called "His Excellency General Washington." It called Washington "first in peace and honors." She sent her poem to him.

Some time later, she was invited to visit George Washington in his headquarters. It was an unusual visit between a black woman poet and a military commander.

RAY FREEMAN: Phillis took care of Susannah during her long final sickness. When Mr. Wheatley died in March seventeen seventy-four, Phillis wrote that she had lost a friend and parent.

After Susannah's death, Phillis was freed by the Wheatley family. But her life became more difficult.

She married John Peters, a free black man. He failed in many business attempts. Their three children died at a very young age.

Phillis tried to publish another book of her poems. But now that she was free, she had lost her appeal as a slave poet. Phillis Wheatley died poor and alone in seventeen eighty-four. She was thirty-one years old.


RAY FREEMAN: This Special English program was written by Vivian Bournazian. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Ray Freeman.

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

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"The Second Continental Congress" from VOA.

This is Rich Kleinfeldt. And this is Sarah Long with THE MAKING OF A NATION, a VOA Special English program about the history of the United States. Today, we continue the story of the American Revolution against Britain in the late 1700s.

Battles had been fought between Massachusetts soldiers and British military forces in the towns of Lexington and Concord. Yet, war had not been declared. Even so, citizen soldiers in each of the thirteen American colonies were ready to fight.

George Washington
This was the first question faced by the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Who was going to organize these men into an army? Delegates to the Congress decided that the man for the job was George Washington. He had experience fighting in the French and Indian War. He was thought to know more than any other colonist about being a military commander. Washington accepted the position. But he said he would not take any money for leading the new Continental Army. Washington left Philadelphia for Boston to take command of the soldiers there.

Delegates to the Second Continental Congress made one more attempt to prevent war with Britain. They sent another message to King George. They asked him to consider their problems and try to find a solution. The king would not even read the message.

You may wonder: Why would the delegates try to prevent war if the people were ready to fight? The answer is that most members of the Congress -- and most of the colonists -- were not yet ready to break away from Britain. They continued to believe they could have greater self-government and still be part of the British Empire. But that was not to be.

Two days after the Congress appointed George Washington as army commander, colonists and British troops fought the first major battle of the American Revolution. It was called the Battle of Bunker Hill, although it really involved two hills: Bunker and Breed's. Both are just across the Charles River from the city of Boston.

Massachusetts soldiers dug positions on Breed's Hill one night in June, 1775. By morning, the hill was filled with troops. The British started to attack from across the river. The Americans had very little gunpowder. They were forced to wait until the British had crossed the river and were almost on top of them before they fired their guns. Their commander reportedly told them: Do not fire until you see the whites of the British soldiers' eyes.

The British climbed the hill. The Americans fired. A second group climbed the hill. The Americans fired again. The third time, the British reached the top, but the Americans were gone. They had left because they had no more gunpowder. The British captured Breed's Hill. More than one thousand had been killed or wounded in the attempt. The Americans lost about four hundred.

That battle greatly reduced whatever hope was left for a negotiated settlement. King George declared the colonies to be in open rebellion. And the Continental Congress approved a declaration condemning everything the British had done since 1763.

The American colonists fought several battles against British troops during 1775. Yet the colonies were still not ready to declare war. Then, the following year, the British decided to use Hessian soldiers to fight against the colonists. Hessians were mostly German mercenaries who fought for anyone who paid them. The colonists feared these soldiers and hated Britain for using them.

Thomas Paine
At about the same time, Thomas Paine published a little document that had a great effect on the citizens of America. He named it, "Common Sense." It attacked King George, as well as the idea of government by kings. It called for independence.

About one hundred fifty thousand copies of "Common Sense" were sold in America. Everyone talked about it. As a result, the Continental Congress began to act. It opened American ports to foreign shipping. It urged colonists to establish state governments and to write constitutions. On June seventh, delegate Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed a resolution for independence.

The resolution was not approved immediately. Declaring independence was an extremely serious step. Signing such a document would make delegates to the Continental Congress traitors to Britain. They would be killed if captured by the British.

Thomas Jefferson
The delegates wanted the world to understand what they were doing, and why. So they appointed a committee to write a document giving the reasons for their actions. One member of the committee was the Virginian, Thomas Jefferson. He had already written a report criticizing the British form of government. So the other committee members asked him to prepare the new document. They said he was the best writer in the group. They were right. It took him seventeen days to complete the document that the delegates approved on July fourth, 1776. It was America's Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson's document was divided into two parts. The first part explained the right of any people to revolt. It also described the ideas the Americans used to create a new, republican form of government. The Declaration of Independence begins this way:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them to another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Jefferson continued by saying that all people are equal in the eyes of God. Therefore, governments can exist only by permission of the people they govern. He wrote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

The next part states why the American colonies decided to separate from Britain:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it.

This is why the Americans were rebelling against England. The British believed the Americans were violating their law. Jefferson rejected this idea. He claimed that the British treatment of the American colonies violated the natural laws of God. He and others believed a natural law exists that is more powerful than a king.

The idea of a natural law had been developed by British and French philosophers more than one hundred years earlier. Jefferson had studied these philosophers in school. In later years, however, he said he did not re-read these ideas while he was writing the Declaration. He said the words came straight from his heart.

The second part of the Declaration lists twenty-seven complaints by the American colonies against the British government. The major ones concerned British taxes on Americans and the presence of British troops in the colonies. After the list of complaints, Jefferson wrote this strong statement of independence:

King George III
That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States they have the full Power to levy War, conduct Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

The last statement of the Declaration of Independence was meant to influence the delegates into giving strong support for that most serious step -- revolution:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Today's MAKING OF A NATION program was written by Nancy Steinbach. Shep O’Neal read the Declaration of Independence. This is Rich Kleinfeldt. And this is Sarah Long. Join us again next week for another VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.

I must add to this history the fact that, in large part, the Declaration of Independence was necessary for the colonies to get the support of the French. The French would not have supported the revolution without that document. Without French support, the revolution would have failed.


1. Delegates at the Second Continental Congress wanted to avoid war with England because _____________________.
a: they were afraid the colonists would lose a war with England
b: many of them were not ready to break ties with England
c: the colonists were not prepared to fight
d: the delegates were not able to choose a military leader for the colonial soldiers

2. The battles of Lexington and Concord were fought ________________ .
a: before war was declared with England
b: after war was declared with England
c: between Massachusetts and New York
d: while the delegates of the Second Continental Congress were meeting

3. The first battle of the Revolutionary War was _________________ .
a: the battle of Lexington
b: the battle of Concord
c: the Boston Massacre
d: the battle of Bunker Hill

4. In the battle of Bunker Hill, the main problem for the colonists was _____________ .
a: their lack of ammunition
b: their lack of training, preparedness, skill
c: their inferior position on the battlefield
d: the weather was against them

5. The first thing George Washington did when he was appointed commander of the colonial army was _________________________ .
a: negotiate his salary
b: return to his home to plan strategy
c: go to Boston to command the colonial troops about to fight the British
d: meet with other generals in New York

6. The Second Continental Congress chose Thomas Jefferson to write The Declaration of Independence because _____________________ .
a: he wanted to write more than the other delegates
b: he was an excellent writer
c: he understood the theory of natural law
d: he was a candidate for president

7. Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" _____________________ .
a: wasn't very popular
b: was a book about how to live better and be happier
c: had no effect on the decisions of The Continental Congress
d: attacked the idea of governments ruled by kings

8. The meaning of "unalienable rights" is _____________________ .
a: the right to start and conduct a revolution
b: rights that are intrinsic and cannot be taken away by governments or anyone else
c: rights that are limited to certain number specified in law
d: rights that are good as long as a person reside in his/her colony

9. Another name for this article could be ___________________ .
a: "The Declaration of Independence"
b: "The American Colonies Prepare for Revolution"
c: "Decisions and Discussions in the Second Continental Congress and The First Battle"
d: "The Battle of Bunker Hill"

10. This article is mainly about ____________________ .
a: the Second Continental Congress's response to the events at Concord and Lexington and its results
b: how George Washington became commander of the colonial army
c: the effect of Thomas Paine's book on the decisions of the Second Continental Congress
d: how French and British philosophy influenced Thomas Jefferson

The Battles of Bunker and Breed Hills from Youtube:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Diego Rivera, The People's Artist

Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato, Mexico in 1886. He began to be interested in art at age ten. He studied art at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City. In 1907, he moved to Europe. First, he studied in Spain for two years. There, he studied with Eduardo Chicharro in Madrid. He spent most of the next fourteen years in Paris where he encountered the works of such great masters as Cézanne, Gauguin, Renoir, and Matisse.
Around 1917, inspired by Paul Cézanne's paintings, Rivera shifted toward Post-Impressionism with simple forms and large patches of vivid colors. His paintings began to attract attention, and he was able to display them at several exhibitions. However, he felt that his own paintings of that period were only enjoyed by the well-educated who could afford to buy them for their homes. Rivera believed that art should be enjoyed by everyone, especially the poor and working class people. So, Rivera searched for a new form of painting, one that could express the complexities of his day and still reach a wide audience. It was not until he began to study the Renaissance frescoes of Italy that he found his medium. These frescoes were often painted on the walls of churches so that everyone in the towns could enjoy and appreciate them. It was with a vision of the future of the fresco and with a strong belief in public art that Rivera returned to Mexico. "Mujeres Tehuanas", 1923 From "The Political Vision of the Mexican People"
Frescoes are mural paintings done on fresh plaster. Using the fresco form in universities and other public buildings, Rivera was able to introduce his work into the everyday lives of the people. Rivera concerned himself primarily with the physical process of human development and the effects of technological progress. For him, the frescoes’ size and public accessibility was the perfect canvas on which to illustrate the grand themes of the history and future of humanity. In the autumn of 1922, Rivera participated in the founding of the Revolutionary Union of Technical Workers, Painters and Sculptors, and later that year he joined the Mexican Communist Party. His murals, subsequently painted in fresco only, dealt with Mexican society and reflected the country's 1910 Revolution. A life long Marxist, Rivera saw in this medium something more relevant and lasting than the elite walls of galleries and museums. Throughout the twenties his fame grew with a number of large murals depicting scenes from Mexican history. His work appealed to the people’s interest in the history of technology and progress. The desire to understand progress was visible in the growing industrial societies of the 1930s, and Rivera saw the workers’ struggle as a courageous stand against exploitation by factory owners whose focus was more on profit than the welfare of workers. "The Sugar Mill" (El Trapiche)
Diego Rivera once said, “An artist is above all a human being, profoundly human to the core. If the artist can’t feel everything that humanity feels, if the artist isn’t capable of loving until he forgets himself and sacrifices himself if necessary, if he won’t put down his magic brush and head the fight against the oppressor, then he isn’t a great artist.” Diego Rivera is considered the greatest Mexican painter of the twentieth century. He had a profound effect on the international art world. Among his many contributions, Rivera is credited with the reintroduction of fresco painting into modern art and architecture. His radical political views deeply influenced his art, and made a strong impact. "Me and My Parrots" by Frida Kahlo
His tempestuous romance with the painter Frida Kahlo was an interesting story that people followed. Frida Kahlo wanted to be Diego Rivera’s lover for a long time. However, she had a serious accident, and couldn’t follow her desire to meet him. Finally, when she recovered, she approached him. Diego Rivera met Frieda Kahlo in 1928. She showed him a painting. She wanted to know if she had a future as an artist. They became very close and fell in love. But after they married in 1929, he continued to see other women, and she continued to see other men. They divorced in 1940, but remarried the same year. In a series of visits to America, from 1930 to 1940, Rivera brought his unique vision to public spaces and galleries, enlightening and inspiring not only artists, but everyone who saw his work. In 1930, Rivera made the first of a series of trips that would alter the course of American painting. In November of that year, Rivera began work on his first two major American commissions: for the American Stock Exchange Luncheon Club and for the California School of Fine Arts. These two pieces incorporated Rivera’s radical politics, while also recording history simply and graphically. During his first two commissions in San Francisco in 1930-1931, Rivera and his wife, artist Frida Kahlo, were extremely well-received. Rivera was quite pleased, therefore, to return to San Francisco in 1940 to execute the Pan American Unity mural for the Golden Gate International Exposition. This work represented a culmination of hundreds of murals painted for the public, and also demonstrated his affectionate relationship with San Francisco. "Indian Metallurgy" from the Pan American Unity Mural
The Pan American Unity Mural is now located at the Diego Rivera Theater at the City College of San Francisco, Ocean Campus. In this mural, Diego Rivera unites figures from Mexican mythology and the culture of industrialism. He wanted to bring the North and South together in this art, both Mexican and North American. He wanted to show both the North American talent for making and using machinery and the southern art, which he called “the art of the emotions.”
 One of Rivera’s greatest gifts was his ability to condense a complex historical subject (such as the history of California’s natural resources) down to its most essential parts. For Rivera, the foundation of history could be seen in the working class, whose lives were spent by war and industry in the name of progress. In these first two commissions and all of the American murals to follow, Rivera would investigate the struggles of the working class. Rivera believed that art should play a role in empowering working people to understand their own histories. "Detroit Industry Mural", 1932
In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, Rivera arrived in Detroit, where, at the invitation of Henry Ford, he began a tribute to the American worker on the walls of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Completed in 1933, the piece depicted industrial life in the United States, concentrating on the car plant workers of Detroit. Rivera’s radical politics and independent nature had begun to draw criticism during his early years in America. Though the fresco was the focus of much controversy, Edsel Ford, Henry’s son, defended the work and it remains today Rivera’s most significant painting in America. Rivera, however, was not very popular with the wealthy Rockefellers in New York City. "Man at the Crossroads"
In 1933 the Rockefellers commissioned Rivera to paint a mural for the lobby of the RCA building in Rockefeller Center. “Man at the Crossroads” was to depict the social, political, industrial, and scientific possibilities of the twentieth century. In the painting, Rivera included a scene of a giant May Day demonstration of workers marching with red banners. It was not the subject matter of the panel that made the Rockerfellers angry, but the clear portrait of Vladamir Lenin, the Russian revolutionary leader of the Soviet Union, leading the demonstration. When Rivera refused to remove the portrait, he was ordered to stop and the painting was destroyed. That same year, Rivera used the money from the Rockefellers to create a mural for the Independent Labor Institute that had Vladamir Lenin as its central figure. Coit Tower Mural Detail
Rivera remained a central force in the development of a national art in Mexico throughout his life. In 1957, at the age of seventy, Rivera died in Mexico City. Perhaps one his greatest legacies, however, was his impact on America’s conception of public art. In depicting scenes of American life on public buildings, Rivera provided the first inspiration for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s WPA program. Of the hundreds of American artists who would find work through the WPA, many continued on to address political concerns that had first been publicly presented by Rivera. In addition to being a celebrated and controversial artist, Diego Rivera was also a provocative political activist who incited debate not only in Mexico, but also in the USA and Soviet Union. Since his death, his hundreds of public artworks, his many oils and watercolors, and his political daring continue to contribute greatly to the development of public art across the Americas.


1. The wealthy Rockerfellers of New York City didn't like "Man at the Crossroads" because _________________ .
a: it didn't use the fresco style
b: it depicted a Communist Revolutionary
c: it wasn't Rivera's best work
d: it contained an offensive demonstration against capitalism

2. Diego Rivera's relationship with Frido Kahlo has been described as ______________ .
a: loyal and devoted
b: balanced and peaceful
c: tempestuous and uneven
d: cold and distant

3. In the "Detroit Industrial Mural", Diego Rivera celebrates ________________ .
a: Midwest agriculture
b: workers in the auto industry
c: progress and technology of Detroit engineers
d: native Americans in the working class

4. In his public art, Diego Rivera drew most of his inspiration from ______________ .
a: Renaissance Frescoes
b: Paul Cezanne
c: Post Impressionism
d: Mexican History

5. In the Diego Rivera Theater at City College of San Francisco, you can view Rivera's famous mural: " __________________________ ".
a: Man at the Crossroads
b: Me and My Parrots
c: Pan American Unity
d: Indian Metallurgy

6. Diego Rivera believed that one could not be a great artist if he or she ______________ .
a: didn't spend 12 hours a day working on one's craft
b: only exhibited works in elite galleries
c: didn't engage in tempestuous relationships with the opposite sex
d: didn't fight to overcome oppression of working people and the poor

7. People who intensely disliked Diego Rivera's work were mostly ________________ .
a: the upper class, the wealthy, and the privileged
b: aspiring artists
c: laborers in fields and factories
d: experimental painters and impressionists

8. Diego Rivera firmly believed that art _____________________ .
a: should be only for the privileged and well-educated
b: should be only large murals and frescoes
c: should be made available for everyone
d: should be so popular that the artist could name his price

9. Another name for this article could be, " _________________ ".
a: Diego Rivera's Career and Legacy
b: Diego Rivera's Influence in Russian and Mexico
c: Diego Rivera's Romance with Frida Kahlo
d: What Diego Rivera Learned from French Artists

10. This article is mainly about ______________________ .
a: how Diego Rivera discovered his artistic methods
b: the ways in which Diego Rivera's radical politics affected his art work
c: the amazing range of styles Diego Rivera explored in his lifetime
d: a great and compassionate Mexican muralist and his continuing influence today

Youtube videos showing the work of Diego Rivera:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jesse Owens. He Was Fast On His Feet. (You better believe it.)

GWEN OUTEN: This is Gwen Outen.

STEVE EMBER: And this is Steve Ember with People in America in VOA Special English. Every week we tell about a person who was important in the history of the United States. Today we tell the story of athlete Jesse Owens. He once was the fastest runner in the world.


GWEN OUTEN: In the summer of nineteen thirty-six, people all over the world heard the name of Jesse Owens. That summer, Owens joined the best athletes from fifty nations to compete in the Olympic games. They met in Berlin, Germany. There was special interest in the Olympic games that year.

Gottfried von Cramm,
German tennis star
Adolf Hitler was the leader of Germany. Hitler and his Nazi party believed that white people -- especially German people – were the best race of people on Earth. They believed that other races of people -- especially those with dark skin -- were almost less than human.

In the summer of nineteen thirty-six, Hitler wanted to prove his beliefs to the world. He wanted to show that German athletes could win every important competition. After all, only a few weeks before the Olympics, German boxer Max Schmeling had defeated the great American heavyweight Joe Louis, a black man.

STEVE EMBER: Jesse Owens was black, too. Until nineteen thirty-six, very few black athletes had competed in the Olympics for the United States. Owens was proud to be on the team. He was very sure of his ability.

JESSE OWENS: “I think that this week is very sufficient for the boys on the United States Olympic team for the simple reason because we have been through a series of preliminary events in our country. And the training here that we are getting here is just a little tune-up for the Olympic games. Our hard training is really over. And the rain here is something that is going to help our team quite a bit because some of the boys has a tendency to work a little bit too hard. And I think that the rain is doing a good to slack up the training a bit.”

(1936 interview with Jesse Owens for German radio, from

STEVE EMBER: Owens spent one week competing in four different Olympic track and field events in Berlin. During that time, he did not think much about the color of his skin, or about Adolf Hitler.

Owens said later: "I was looking only at the finish line. I thought of all the years of practice and competition, and of all who believed in me."

GWEN OUTEN: We do not know what Hitler thought of Jesse Owens. No one recorded what he said about this black man who ran faster and jumped farther than any man of any color at the Olympic games. But we can still see Jesse Owens as Hitler saw him. For at Hitler's request, motion pictures were made of the Berlin Olympic games.

The films show Jesse Owens as a thin, but powerfully-built young man with smooth brown skin and short hair. When he ran, he seemed to move without effort. When he jumped, as one observer said, he seemed to jump clear out of Germany.

Jesse Owens won the highest award -- the Gold Medal -- in all four of the Olympic competitions he entered. In the one-hundred meter run, he equaled the fastest time ever run in that Olympic event. In the long jump and the two-hundred meter run, he set new Olympic records. And as part of a four-man team, he helped set a new world record for the four-hundred meter relay race. He was the first American in the history of Olympic track and field events to win four Gold Medals in a single Olympics.

STEVE EMBER: Owens' Olympic victories made him a hero. He returned home to parades in New York City and Columbus, Ohio, where he attended the state university. Businessmen paid him for the right to use his name on their stores. No one, however, offered him a permanent job.

For many years after the nineteen thirty-six Olympic games, Jesse Owens survived as best he could. He worked at small jobs. He even used his athletic abilities, but in a sad way. He earned money by running races against people, motorcycles and horses. He and his wife and three daughters saw both good times and bad times.


GWEN OUTEN: Poverty was not new to James Cleveland Owens. He was born in nineteen thirteen on a farm in the southern state of Alabama. He was the youngest of thirteen children. His parents did not own the farm, and earned little money. Jesse remembered that there was rarely enough food to eat. And there was not enough fuel to heat the house in winter.

Some of Jesse’s brothers and sisters died while still young. Jesse was a sickly child. Partly because of this, and partly because of the racial hatred they saw around them, Jesse’s parents decided to leave the South. They moved north, to Cleveland, Ohio, when Jesse was eight years old. The large family lived in a few small rooms in a part of the city that was neither friendly nor pleasant to look at.

Jesse’s father was no longer young or strong. He was unable to find a good job. Most of the time, no one would give him any work at all. But Jesse’s older brothers were able to get jobs in factories. So life was a little better than it had been in the South.

STEVE EMBER: Jesse, especially, was lucky. He entered a school where one white teacher, Charles Riley, took a special interest in him. Jesse looked thin and unhealthy, and Riley wanted to make him stronger. Through the years that Jesse was in school, Riley brought him food in the morning. Riley often invited the boy to eat with his family in the evening. And every day before school, he taught Owens how to run like an athlete.

At first, the idea was only to make the boy stronger. But soon Riley saw that Jesse was a champion. By the time Jesse had completed high school, his name was known across the nation. Ohio State University wanted him to attend college there. While at Ohio State, he set new world records in several track and field events. And he was accepted as a member of the United States Olympic team.


GWEN OUTEN: Owens always remembered the white man who helped change his life. Charles Riley did not seem to care what color a person's skin was. Owens learned to think the same way.

Later in life, Owens put all his energy into working with young people. He wanted to tell them some of the things he had learned about life, work and success: That it is important to choose a goal and always work toward it. That there are good people in the world who will help you to reach your goal. That if you try again and again, you will succeed.

People who heard Owens's speeches said he spoke almost as well as he ran. Owens received awards for his work with boys and girls. The United States government sent him around the world as a kind of sports ambassador. The International Olympic Committee asked for his advice.


STEVE EMBER: In about nineteen seventy, Jesse Owens wrote a book in which he told about his life. It was called “Blackthink.” In the book, Owens denounced young black militants who blamed society for their troubles. He said young black people had the same chance to succeed in the United States as white people. Many black civil rights activists reacted angrily to these statements. They said what Owens had written was not true for everyone.

Owens later admitted that he had been wrong. He saw that not all blacks were given the same chances and help that he had been given. In a second book, Owens tried to explain what he had meant in his first book. He called it “I Have Changed.” Owens said that, in his earlier book, he did not write about life as it was for everyone, but about life as it was for him.

He said he truly wanted to believe that if you think you can succeed--- and you really try -- then you have a chance. If you do not think you have a chance, then you probably will fail. He said these beliefs had worked for him. And he wanted all young people to believe them, too.

GWEN OUTEN: These were the same beliefs he tried to express when he spoke around the world about being an Olympic athlete. "The road to the Olympics," he said, "leads to no city, no country. It goes far beyond New York or Moscow, ancient Greece or Nazi Germany. The road to the Olympics leads -- in the end -- to the best within us.”

In nineteen seventy-six, President Gerald Ford awarded Jesse Owens the Medal of Freedom. This is the highest honor an American civilian can receive. Jesse Owens died of cancer in nineteen eighty. His family members operate the Jesse Owens Foundation. It provides financial aid and support for young people to help them reach their goals in life.


STEVE EMBER: This program was written by Barbara Dash. It was produced by Lawan Davis. This is Steve Ember.

GWEN OUTEN: And this is Gwen Outen. Listen again next week for People in America in VOA Special English.


1. Before the Olympics, Jesse Owens mostly thought about ________________ .
a: The color of his skin
b: Adolph Hitler and the Nazis
c: The finish line
d: his competition

2. The 1936 Olympic Games were held in _________________ .
a: Berlin
b: Paris
c: The United States
d: Amsterdam

3. The German boxer Max Schmeling defeated black champion boxer Joe Louis in __________ .
a: 1935
b: 1936
c: 1940
d: 1944

4. In his book "Blackthink", Jesse Owens said that ________________ .
a: not all black people had the same opportunities that he had
b: black people were outcasts in American society
c: black people had the same chance to succeed as white people
d: black people were victims of white dominated corporate life

5. Jesse Owens won four Gold Medals at the 1936 Olympics. Adolph Hitler _________ .
a: ordered motion pictures made of the Olympics Games
b: complained that Jesse Owens was on drugs
c: executed the athletes Jesse Owens had defeated
d: wept bitterly and went on a three day drinking binge

6. Jesse Owens didn't win a Gold Medal at the 1936 Olympics for the ________________ .
a: one hundred meter run
b: one hundred meter swim
c: two hundred meter run
d: long jump

7. After his victories in the Olympics of 1936, businesses _______________ .
a: offered him high paying jobs and used his name
b: only used his name and didn't hire him
c: didn't use his name to sell products
d: only hired him for a short time

8. Charley Riley helped Jesse Owens to become an athlete. But first, it was necessary to _______________ .
a: teach Jesse Owens the rules of sports
b: improve the young man's health with wholesome food
c: build the young man's muscles through weight lifting exercises
d: build the young man's endurance by training him with a stationary bike

9. Another name for this article could be, " ___________ ."
a: Training Methods for Olympics Athletes
b: Black Athletes of the 1930s
c: The Life and Career of Jesse Owens
d: The Rise of Nazi Germany

10. This article is mainly about _____________ .
a: the Olympic Games of 1936
b: the difficulties experienced by black athletes
c: the rigorous training of Olympic athletes
d: the great Jesse Owens, his struggles and accomplishments

The following is a video of Jesse Owens winning the 100 meter run.

Check out the Jesse Owens Website for more information about this amazing athlete.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Moby Maybe" from Edcon Publishing

Sam is aiming his harpoon gun at a killer whale.

A place you will read about: Vancouver, a city near the Pacific Ocean. Things you will read about: harpoon gun: a gun that shoots spears. Statue: a piece of art that is made to look like a person or animal and that is usually made of stone, wood, clay, or metal.

Sam leaned over the side of the boat, when he saw a huge black fin heading towards him. That fin told him it was a killer whale. Sam raised his harpoon gun, took aim, and fired. The knife at the end of the rope hit its mark. The whale leaped out of the water squeaking loudly. It was not dead, just wounded. Sam needed a dead whale as a model for the statue he was to make for the city of Vancouver.

The whale was swimming quietly on its line and would be easy to hit. Sam picked up his gun again, aimed, then stopped. An idea struck him! No killer whale had ever been caught and kept alive for doctors to study. This could be the first one. Sam had to work fast if he were to save the whale's life. He sent a radio call to Vancouver. He wanted doctors waiting at the dock with a salt water tank for the whale.

During the long trip back, Sam decided his whale ought to have a name. He remembered the famous whale story, Moby Dick, and thought that Moby Dick would be a good name. But what if it were a girl whale? Then Moby Doll might be better. Since Sam wasn't sure, he decided on Moby Maybe.

News about Sam and Moby Maybe spread through the city quickly, and thousands of people were waiting at the dock to greet them. Doctors carefully took out the knife and gave the whale something to help its wound get better. Sam spent many days sitting on a float in Moby Maybe's tank, keeping the whale company while it got better. A killer whale could easily break up a float with its tail if it wanted to, but Moby didn't. The whale seemed to know that Sam was its friend.

One thing did worry Sam. Moby wasn't eating. No matter what kind of meat or fish Sam offered, Moby refused everything. This went on for eight weeks. Then, one day, the whale started flapping its tail as if to get Sam's attention. Sam threw Moby a fish, and the whale ate it. Then Sam threw two more, and Moby ate them, too. Crowds around Moby's tank cheered. Stories about Moby' s first meal appeared on the front page of every Vancouver newspaper. Moby had become the city's pet, and news that the whale had eaten, made the whole city happy.

Soon, Moby was eating one hundred pounds of fish every day. The whale, who had been quiet and shy before, now leaped and played in the water. One day, Sam announced lunch by slapping the water with the fish that Moby liked best - cod. Moby swam up to Sam, took the fish from him, and ate it. Then Sam held the next fish high in the air to get the whale to leap for it. Moby took one look at where Sam was holding the fish and quickly dived under the water.

The whale came up on the other side of the tank flapping its tail in anger. When Sam lowered the fish closer to the water, Moby came back and took it. Next, Sam splashed the water with a rockfish. Moby took one look at the sharp fins on the fish's body and swam away. The whale showed its anger again by flapping its tail. But when Sam had cut off the sharp fins, Moby returned and ate the fish. Sam was discovering just how smart Moby was. The whale had a mind of its own! Moby was training Sam, instead of Sam training Moby.

The doctors were eager to test Moby's hearing, for they knew that whales have a very sharp sense of hearing. They played recordings of calls of other killer whales for Moby. When the whale heard them, it answered them with excited squeaks. But when doctors played a recording of Moby's own voice, the whale paid no attention to it at all.

After a few months, Moby's shiny black skin started turning gray. The doctors began to worry. They found that the trouble was with the water in the tank. It wasn't as salty as the ocean water. Plans were made to move Moby's tank to another dock where the water was better. But before the tank could be moved, Moby took one last dive. The mighty killer whale never came up again. Divers went into the tank and discovered the whale dead at the bottom. They also discovered that Moby Maybe was really Moby Doll!

Sam finally made his statue for the city of Vancouver. But to him, it was not just a statue of a killer whale. It was a way to honor Moby Doll. For she had taught the world just how clever killer whales really are.

1. When Sam shot the whale, _______
a. it dived under the water quickly.
b. it leaped out of the water squeaking.
c. it attacked his boat with its tail.
d. it broke the line and swam away.

2. Sam was out hunting a whale _________
a. to keep as a family pet.
b. to study how whales behave.
c. to use as a model for a statue.
d. to teach it to do tricks.

3. Sam decided not to kill the whale because ___________
a. he wanted to let doctors study it.
b. his gun wasn't working too well.
c. the people of Vancouver didn't want him to.
d. he was afraid other whales would attack him.

4. Sam named the whale Moby Maybe because ____________
a. Moby was Sam's last name.
b. it was the name of a famous whale story.
c. the doctors thought it was a good name.
d. he wasn't sure if it was a boy or girl whale.

5. Vancouver newspapers had stories of Moby on the front page because ________
a. there was no other news to print.
b. people were very interested in the whale.
c. Sam asked them to put it there.
d. that was where they always put animal stories.

6. After the whale started eating, ____________
a. it leaped and played in the water.
b. it became quiet and shy.
c. it attacked Sam and the doctors.
d. it flapped its tail in anger.

7. Moby got angry when Sam ____________
a. slapped the water with a fish.
b. held the fish high in the air.
c. sat on a float in the tank.
d. cut off the sharp fins on the fish.

8.When doctors played recordings of other whales' voices, ________
a. Moby paid no attention to them.
b. Moby swam away in anger.
c. Moby leaped out of the water.
d. Moby answered with excited squeaks.

9. Another name for this story could be __________
a. "Sam, The Whale Hunter."
b. "How to Feed Killer Whales."
c. "The Clever Killer Whale."
d. "Animal Doctors at Work."

10. This story is mainly about _____________
a. the different kinds of fish killer whales eat.
b. catching whales off the coast of Vancouver.
c. things doctors learned by studying a killer whale.
d. a killer whale's sharp sense of hearing.

Moby Doll in Wikipedia. Here you will read that the official name for "Killer Whale" is "Orca".

Orca and Dog conversation from Youtube. Don't miss this. It's amazing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Weight Loss Research" from VOA

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I’m Shirley Griffith.

BOB DOUGHTY: And I’m Bob Doughty. Today, we will talk about diet and weight loss. Exercise is important if you want to get in good shape. But experts say exercise alone is not enough if your goal is to lose weight.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: It is that time of year again. Warm weather has returned to earth’s northern hemisphere. Summer is a time when people of all ages feel like getting their swimwear and going to the nearest swimming pool or seashore.

But first, there is that troublesome little thing called winter weight gain. Many of us gain weight because of inactivity during the winter.

Some people go to extremes to lose that extra weight before going to the beach. In the weight loss industry, there is never a lack of ideas about how to lose weight. Consider the "Sleeping Beauty diet," where you sleep your way to weight loss. You cannot eat if you are sleeping, or so the theory goes.

Then there is the tapeworm diet. The tapeworm is said to help people lose weight by eating the food that is stored in their stomach. But first you have to be willing to swallow the little creature. This may be more trouble than many people want.

Strange, new diets, treatments and exercise programs arrive on the market every day. Each one promises to help people lose weight and get a beach beautiful body. The weight loss industry takes in billions of dollars each year, and it is growing.

BOB DOUGHTY: One research company says the weight loss business will be worth more than five hundred eighty billion dollars worldwide by the year twenty fourteen. MarketsandMarkets also says the food and drink market represents the largest part of that growth. It is expected to reach more than three hundred fifty five billion dollars by twenty fourteen.

There is a seemingly endless supply of ideas about how to lose weight. There are low-carbohydrate diets and low-fat diets, diets that limit calories and ones that let you eat as much as you want. And, there are thousands of different kinds of diet pills and programs. So where does one begin? Which one is best?

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Experts say there is no single diet plan that works best for everyone. Many experts agree on one thing: that to lose weight, you must use or burn off more calories than you take in. When you eat more calories than your body needs, it stores that extra energy as fat.

Calories are a measure of energy in food. A pound of fat is equal to about four hundred fifty three grams or three thousand five hundred calories. To lose that fat in a week, you have to burn off at least that amount in calories or eat that much less. The best thing to do is to combine both ideas. Eat fewer calories and increase physical activity so that you burn off more.

America’s National Institutes of Health has suggested that women limit calories to no less than one thousand two hundred calories a day without medical supervision. It also says men should have no less than one thousand five hundred calories. Debate continues about the best way to fill those calorie requirements.


BOB DOUGHTY: For years, eating a diet low in fat was said to be the best way to lose weight. A low-fat diet is one in which less than thirty percent of a person’s daily calorie intake comes from fat.

Dean Ornish developed one of the most popular low fat diets after years of research on ways to control heart disease. His dietary ideas were first published in the medical journal The Lancet in nineteen ninety. The Ornish diet plan became more popular in nineteen ninety-three with the release of his book “Eat More, Weigh Less.”

Dr. Ornish studied the effects of carbohydrates – one of the most important sources of energy for the body. He found that carbohydrates were not to blame for making people fat. Instead, he said, fat makes people fat. He noted that a baked potato is not high in fat, but it becomes fatty when people add sour cream and butter to it.

Dr. Ornish’s diet plan limits daily calories from fat to less than ten percent, with little to no saturated fat or cholesterol. He also suggested that people get seventy to seventy-five percent of their calories from complex carbohydrates, and fifteen to twenty percent from proteins.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Like other low-fat diets, the Ornish plan suggests that people eat diets high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes. The plan advises people to avoid all meat and meat products, and to stay away from oils, nuts and seeds. It does not limit the number of calories people eat. But, eating the foods suggested by the diet plan would reduce the number of calories.

The Ornish diet has proved to be effective for many people. However, critics say it lets dieters eat too many carbohydrates while setting restrictions on calories from fat. They also say the changes required in eating habits may be too extreme for many people to follow.


BOB DOUGHTY: Unlike the Ornish diet, low carbohydrate diets limit foods that are high in carbohydrates. These diets advise people to avoid things like white flour, pasta, rice, potatoes and foods high in sugar. Instead they suggest that people eat foods that are high in proteins and fats. These include foods like meat, fish, chicken, eggs, cheese and nuts.

The Atkins diet is one of the most popular of these diets. It suggests that people eat fewer than twenty grams of carbohydrates a day. This amount is slowly increased to between forty and one hundred grams of carbohydrates a day to keep the weight off.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Both weight loss plans have been carefully studied over the years. But no one plan has come out as a clear winner. Three years ago, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found low-carb diets to be the best at providing the most weight loss. The study was led by researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Ben Gurion University in Israel.

The researchers studied more than three hundred obese patients who followed one of three diet plans. These included a low-fat diet, a low-carb diet and a Mediterranean diet, which is made up of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, olive oil and nuts.

BOB DOUGHTY: A similar study published a year later looked at more than eight hundred dieters. The study found that low fat diets and high fat diets were equally successful at providing and maintaining weight loss over a two year period.

The researchers concluded that the most important thing for any diet is that people stick with it. And you must burn more calories than you take in no matter what you eat.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Some people are unable to lose weight through diet and exercise, no matter how hard they try. Others are just not willing to put in the effort. Many of these people choose to have surgical operations to reach their weight loss goals.

One kind of weight loss surgery reduces the size of the stomach. This is done by separating the stomach into two parts, including a very small section at the top. People who have had this operation are forced to eat smaller amounts of food because their top stomach fills up much faster.

Research suggests that most people lose about half of their overweight pounds in the first year after surgery. However, a large number of people regain the weight in three to five years.

BOB DOUGHTY: A new report suggests similar results for another popular weight loss surgery. Liposuction has been widely used since the nineteen seventies to improve the body’s appearance. It improves body shape by removing fat from certain parts of the body. The most common areas are the stomach, waist, hips, thighs, neck and arms. The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery says liposuction is the most popular form of cosmetic surgery worldwide.

Recently, researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine found that the effects of the surgery may not be long-lasting. They said people who have liposuction usually experience weight gain within one year after the surgery. And the fat that comes back reappears in a new area of the body, most noticeably the shoulders, arms and upper abdomen. The researchers say this is one more reason to try to prevent obesity before it happens.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written and produced by June Simms. I’m Shirley Griffith.

BOB DOUGHTY: And I’m Bob Doughty. Join us next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"The Story of Woody Guthrie, Part Two" - VOA

I'm Mary Tillotson. And I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today, we complete our story about songwriter and singer Woody Guthrie.


Woody Guthrie grew up in Oklahoma and Texas during the nineteen twenties. A short time later, many farms in these states failed. Extreme dry weather ruined the soil. This area became known as the Dust Bowl.

Like many people, Woody left for California to find work. However, many people could only find work on farms gathering fruit or other crops. These workers often lived in camps with poor conditions.

Woody visited these farm worker camps. He played his guitar and sang songs he wrote that described the conditions at the camp he was visiting.

Labor union organizers in California found Woody Guthrie useful to their cause. They urged him to go to New York City to make recordings of his songs.

Woody liked the idea and left California for New York City in nineteen forty. There he met Alan Lomax, an expert on America's traditional music. Lomax worked for the United States Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. He collected and recorded traditional American folk music. When he heard Woody sing, Lomax knew he had found a true singer of American folk music.

Alan Lomax recorded many of Woody's songs for the Library of Congress. He also helped Woody find work in New York. One company agreed to record some of Woody's songs. The record he made was called "Dust Bowl Ballads." The songs told stories of people who had lost their land. Many music critics praised Woody and the songs he wrote.

Lomax also helped Woody get a job with CBS Radio. He sang and played folk music on a radio program that was broadcast across the United States.

Woody and several other musicians joined together to write political protest songs. One of these was Pete Seeger. Woody wrote performed with a group called the Almanac Singers. Later, some members of the group formed the folk singing group called the Weavers.

It was during this time in New York that Woody wrote what became his most famous song, "This Land is Your Land." He described the beauty and richness of America that he had seen during his travels. He believed America should be a place that belongs to rich and poor people alike. The first version of his song expressed opposition to private property.


In nineteen forty-one, the Interior Department asked Woody Guthrie to write songs supporting the building of the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River in Washington state. He wrote twenty-six songs in a month. The best known of these is "Roll On Columbia."


Woody Guthrie wrote a book about his early life in Oklahoma and Texas. It was published in nineteen forty-three. He called it "Bound for Glory." He described his childhood, and the pain of watching his mother slowly becoming insane. He also wrote about his travels and the needy people he saw in many parts of America. One book critic wrote: "Someday, people are going to wake up and realize that Woody Guthrie and his songs are a national treasure, like the Yellowstone or Yosemite parks."

During World War Two, Woody joined America's Merchant Marine. The Merchant Marine transported soldiers and supplies across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. Later, Woody served in the Army. He returned to New York when the war ended.

Woody's wife had left him a few years earlier. In nineteen forty-five, he married Marjorie Mazia. She was a dancer with the Martha Graham dance group. Woody and Marjorie had a daughter named Cathy Ann. In nineteen fifty, Woody began writing songs for children. These became very popular. Here is one called "Riding in My Car." It shows his sense of fun and humor.


One day, while Woody and Marjorie were away, a fire started in their house. Their daughter Cathy Ann was severely burned. She died the next day. Woody was crushed by her death. He remembered how his sister had died the same way. He was never the same after Cathy Ann died. He had trouble earning money. He began drinking alcohol. Woody and Marjorie had several more children after Cathy Ann's death. But their marriage ended.

Woody Guthrie began noting something strange about himself. He found that the words he wrote often did not make sense. And he had sudden attacks of uncontrollable shaking. In nineteen fifty-two, doctors confirmed his worst fears. He had Huntington's chorea, the same disease of the brain and nervous system that had killed his mother. Woody Guthrie was forty years old.

There was no treatment for the disease. His condition got worse. In nineteen fifty-four, Woody Guthrie traveled one more time across America. He wanted to see the places where he had lived and the workers' camps where he had sung. Old friends had trouble recognizing him. Instead of a young man full of life, they saw an old man who could not speak clearly or control his shaking.

Finally, he entered a hospital because he could no longer care for himself. But while he seemed to be forgotten, his music was not. By the late nineteen fifties, folk music became popular again in the United States. More Americans began listening and playing the songs of Woody Guthrie.

Young folk singers, like Bob Dylan, came to New York to visit Woody in the hospital. Dylan and others copied the way Woody sang and played the guitar. And like Woody, they wrote protest songs that called for social and political justice.

Woody Guthrie remained in the hospital until he died in nineteen sixty-seven. His family and friends visited him each week. In the last years of his life, Woody could hardly speak. But his family and friends knew he still believed in the causes he had sung and written about all his life. They knew this because when they sang his songs, Woody's eyes would become brighter and his defiant spirit would shine through.

(MUSIC: "Hard Travelin'")

This VOA Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Paul Thompson. I'm Mary Tillotson. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.


"I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose, bound to lose, no good to nobody, no good for nothing, because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that, songs the run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling.

I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, not matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work, and the songs that I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you.

I could hire out to the other side, the big money side, and get several dollars every week just to quit singing my own kind of songs and to sing the kind that knock you down still farther and the ones that poke fun at you even more and the ones that make you think you've not got any sense at all. But I decided a long time ago that I'd starve to death before I'd sing any such songs as that. The radio waves and your movies and your jukeboxes and your song books are already loaded down and running over with such no good songs as that anyhow. "

- Woody Guthrie


1. Woody Guthrie wrote and sang the song "____________________ ". It became his most famous one. In it, he expressed his opposition to private property.
a: Dust Bowl Ballad
b: This Land is Your Land
c: Roll On Columbia
d: Bound for Glory

2. In the late 1950s, Woody Guthrie's music __________________________ .
a: became largely forgotten
b: became very popular again
c: was criticized for being too radical
d: was censored because of its communist ideas

One singer, _______________________ , popular in the 1960s was heavily influenced by Woody Guthrie's music of social protest.
a: Pete Seeger
b: Bob Dylan
c: Alan Lomax
d: Steve Ember

4. Woody Guthrie was dedicated to writing songs that ________________________ .
a: encouraged people to be better
b: encouraged people to do battle against their enemies
c: encouraged people to take pride in themselves
d: encouraged people to laugh at themselves

5. Woody Guthrie was encouraged to record his songs in New York by ______________________ .
a: labor union organizers
b: record companies in California
c: experts in America's traditional music
d: his friends and relatives

6. In 1945, after World War II, Woody Guthrie _______________________ .
a: married a dancer, Marjorie Mazia
b: joined the Merchant Marine
c: enter the hospital with an incurable disease
d: toured the country to visit places he had written songs about

7. One popular children's song Woody Guthrie wrote for his daughter is called "__________________".
a: Bound for Glory
b: This Land is Your Land
c: Roll on Columbia
d: Riding in My Car

8. Woody Guthrie believed very much in ___________________________ .
a: the value of hard work
b: the dignity of the ordinary person
c: the need for better folk music
d: removing restrictions and regulations for businesses and banks

9. While in New York, Woody Guthrie join a singing group known as the Almanac Singers. This group later became ______________________ .
a: The Beatles
b: The Cowboys
c: The Weavers
d: The Travelers

10. "Roll on Columbia" was written and sung to support _______________________ .
a: the war effort
b: the farm workers
c: the building of the Bonneville Dam
d: relief for the Dust Bowl refugees

"Hard Travelin'" by Woody Gutherie, from Youtube

I've been havin' some hard travelin', I thought you knowed
I've been havin' some hard travelin', way down the road
I've been havin' some hard travelin', hard ramblin', hard gamblin' Been havin' some hard travelin', Lord

I've been ridin' them fast rattlers, I thought you knowed
I've been ridin' them flat wheelers, way down the road
I've been ridin' them blind passengers, dead-enders, kickin' up cinders
I've been havin' some hard travelin', Lord

I've been hittin' some hard-rock minin', I thought you knowed I've been leanin' on a pressure drill, way down the road Hammer flyin', air hole suckin', six foot of mud and I shore been a muckin' And
I've been hittin' some hard travelin', Lord

I've been hittin' some hard harvestin', I thought you knowed North Dakota to Kansas City, way down the road Cuttin' that wheat, stackin' that hay and I'm tryin' make 'bout a dollar a day
And I've been havin' some hard travelin', Lord

I've been working that Pittsburgh steel, I thought you knowed I've been dumpin' that red-hot slag, way down the road
I've been blasting, I've been a firin',
I've been pourin' red-hot iron And I've been hittin' some hard travelin', Lord
I've been layin' in a hard-rock jail, I thought you knowed I've been laying out 90 days, way down the road Damned old judge, he said to me, "It's 90 days for vagrancy"
I've been hittin' some hard travelin', Lord


Woody Guthrie, Part One
Also, see "The Evolution of American Folk Music"