HFVS Songs About America Episode with Guest DJ, Rocknoceros (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show

Listen to Podcast:

 Songs About America Episode with
Guest DJ, Rocknoceros

Rocknoceros joins us as our Guest DJ with a Songs About America Episode. The musical trio explore their record collections to find tunes that celebrate, illustrate, and even criticize the Land of the Free.  Starting with the Chuck Berry-inspired rock ‘n roll of the 1950s, the selections quickly span the decades that followed and the various styles that continue to thrive today.  Join in the fun as the band members discuss the people and places that help make American music what it is, with a few asides about lemonade stands and Irving Berlin.

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
July 6th & 7th, 2019
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

FEATURED VIDEO: “In this special short Crash Course, John celebrates American Independence Day by teaching you how the holiday came to be on the 4th of July, and the many ways that Americans celebrate the day. This is a little different than the normal Crash Course episode, so be prepared.” – History of the 4th of July: Crash Course US History Special


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PLAYLIST

  • Rocknoceros – “United States of America” [Rocknoceros]
  • Otis Redding – “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” [The Essentials: Otis Redding]
  • Ramones – “Rockaway Beach (Live)” [It’s Alive (Live)]
  • Recess Monkey – “Lemonade” [In Tents]
  • Chuck Berry – “Sweet Little Sixteen” [20th Century Masters – The Millenium Collection: The Best of Chuck Berry]
  • The Beach Boys – “Surfin’ U.S.A.” [Surfin’ USA]
  • Van Halen – “Dancing In the Street” [Diver Down]
  • Bruce Springsteen – “Born In the U.S.A.” [Born In the U.S.A.]
  • Rocknoceros – “Squeakers” [Plymouth Rockers]
  • Elton John – “Philadelphia Freedom” [Greatest Hits 1970-2002]
  • Grateful Dead – “U.S. Blues” [From the Mars Hotel]
  • Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer – “I’m My Own Grandpa (feat. Riders In the Sky)” [Dancin’ In the Kitchen]
  • Dwight Yoakam – “The Late Great Golden State” [21st Century Hits:  Best of 2000-2012]
  • David Bowie – “Young Americans” [Young Americans]
  • Rocknoceros – “God Bless America” [Plymouth Rockers]

Original broadcast:  June 27th & 28th, 2015

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Community-Based Educational Opportunity: 4th of July

American History & Holiday: The Revolutionary War & Independence Day

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

The call for revolution in the late 18th-century echoed throughout Massachusetts as the early American colonists sought independence from the British. Massachusetts history is deeply rooted in the history of the American Revolutionary War, from acts of rebellion to the many battles fought on this soil.  Every 4th of July, communities commemorate the patriots of the North American colonies that spoke out against a government that they felt did not truly represent them and their interests. Lasting close to a decade (1775-1783), the American Revolution shaped our country’s early identity as a nation.  The places, spaces, and communities that made up the Massachusetts colony played a major role in the early American cause for Independence.

While visitors to Eastern Massachusetts can walk the Freedom Trail, learn about the Boston Tea Party, or tour the home of Paul Revere, folks in Western Massachusetts can explore the history of the American Revolution by witnessing historical reenactments of major battles, visit memorials to the cause’s courageous soldiers, and commemorate the war for American Independence through community celebrations such as fireworks, parades, annual events, and local resources. Read the rest of this entry »

Learning Ahead: Independence Day

American History & Holiday: The Revolutionary War & Independence Day

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

The call for revolution in the late 18th-century echoed throughout Massachusetts as the early American colonists sought independence from the British. Massachusetts history is deeply rooted in the history of the American Revolutionary War, from acts of rebellion to the many battles fought on this soil.  Every 4th of July, communities commemorate the patriots of the North American colonies that spoke out against a government that they felt did not truly represent them and their interests. Lasting close to a decade (1775-1783), the American Revolution shaped our country’s early identity as a nation.  The places, spaces, and communities that made up the Massachusetts colony played a major role in the early American cause for Independence.

While visitors to Eastern Massachusetts can walk the Freedom Trail, learn about the Boston Tea Party, or tour the home of Paul Revere, folks in Western Massachusetts can explore the history of the American Revolution by witnessing historical reenactments of major battles, visit memorials to the cause’s courageous soldiers, and commemorate the war for American Independence through community celebrations such as fireworks, parades, annual events, and local resources. Read the rest of this entry »

Presidents’ Day Invites Studies of Democracy and Freedom

Presidents’ Day Invites Studies of Democracy and Freedom

From the birth of George Washington to the four freedoms outlined by FDR, upcoming opportunities for community-based learning offer Presidents’ Day-inspired ways to explore democracy, freedom, and American history.

Officially known as Washington’s Birthday by the federal government, Presidents’ Day comes every year on the third Monday of February. Once upon a time, Presidents’ Day was celebrated every February 22nd – the true birthday of George Washington. However, thanks to Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1971, Presidents’ Day is celebrated on a Monday (along with a handful of other holidays) so as to allow workers more three-day weekends. In addition to an extra day off, Presidents’ Day offers families opportunities to explore democracy and the freedoms that it allows us to enjoy.

At The Clark Art Institute , families can enjoy five days’ worth of celebration, presidential portraits, and hands-on art-making in honor of Presidents’ Day. From Monday, February 15th through Friday, February 19th, The Clark will have Washington-themed art and activities from 1-4pm. Families can visit to see an iconic portrait of George Washington, and can try their hand at re-designing a dollar bill, taking patriotic photos in a photo booth, and taking the first steps to plan their very own presidential campaign. Through the activities offered, families can explore George Washington as an American icon and can use art-making as a means of reflecting their understanding of his impact and importance within American history.

Read the rest of this entry »

HFVS History Through Stories & Songs Episode with Guest DJ, David Grover (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show

Listen to Podcast:

Hilltown Family Variety Show
History Through Stories & Songs Episode
Guest DJ, David Grover

David Grover is our Guest DJ with a History through Stories & Songs Episode. David puts together an eclectic mix of favorite folk songwriters and singers that highlights the history of our country. – www.davidgrover.com

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
January 9th & 10th, 2016

WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Pete Seeger – “Forever Young”


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Listen to Podcast:

PLAYLIST

  • Where am I Going A.A. Milne/music Bob Reid
  • God’s Counting on You Pete Seeger/Lorre Wyatt
  • English is Crazy/Pete Seeger
  • If I Only Had a Brain/Liv Taylor
  • John Henry/David Grover
  • Ragtime Cowboy /Joe Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks
  • 4 Little Sailors/Bill Staines
  • The Declaration of Independence/Pete Seeger
  • To the South Pole/Bill Harley
  • The Gettysburg Address
  • Civil War Music/David Grover
  • America the Beautiful/David Grover

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Time for History Learning Through Music

New Album Inspires Civil War History Education Opportunity

Use music as a lens for learning about history – Lloyd Miller (of The Deedle Deedle Dees fame) has just released a new Civil War-themed album filled with traditional and original music. Using a curriculum created by Miller, as well as a wealth of other resources, families can use music as an entry point for learning about an important time period in American history.

Glory, glory, hallelujah! Lloyd Miller‘s newest album offers opportunities for learning about the Civil War through the lens of music! Titled, Sing-a-long History, Vol. I: Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!, the album is filled with a mix of traditional songs from the late 19th century, historic pieces of writing set to original music, and Civil War-themed songs created just for the album. Overall, the album provides an engaging musical examination of many of the big ideas involved in studying the Civil War – abolition, the Underground Railroad, warfare tactics, and the experience of slavery. Simply adding the album to a family CD rotation would spark lyrics-based learning, but thanks to a handful of other resources, families and educators can use Miller’s album to spark experiential, multidisciplinary learning about the Civil War! Read the rest of this entry »

Greenfield’s Museum of Our Industrial Heritage New Web Exhibits

When the Connecticut River Dammed Us All To A Different Topography

In centuries past, before car travel was the norm and the Connecticut River had been dammed to generate electricity, boats and barges on the river helped to connect communities in the Pioneer Valley to the small cities and towns further down the river’s bank. Throughout the Pioneer Valley, there are traces leftover from the days before automobile and if you know where to look, these traces can help to teach about the development of these local communities.

Greenfield's Museum of Our Industrial Heritage New Web Exhibits

One such place that gives clues as to its past is a village in the southeastern end of Greenfield. Originally called Cheapside, all that’s left of this early 19th century hub is a street bearing the former port’s name. Cheapside Street runs parallel to the western shore of the Connecticut River, and marks what was once Cheapside Port, a bustling barge stop. Read the rest of this entry »

4th of July: Connecting us to History

Day of celebration offers opportunity for families to reflect on history

4th of July means fireworks but also is a time for families to reflect upon the historical significance and meaning of this patriotic holiday

The most patriotic of all American holidays, the 4th of July, is a day filled with history and tradition. With its roots reaching over 200 years back, the holiday’s origin is well known by all – it’s the day when the Declaration of Independence was signed, sparking a revolution and the creation of the United States. Today, we remember the historical significance of the day with parades, readings, and – of course – lots of fireworks.

Community celebrations of the 4th of July will take place all across western Massachusetts, and bring with them not only celebration but also opportunities to learn about our country’s history, and to reflect on the meaning of freedom. Beginning with a morning filled with parades and running right straight through to the end of the very last fireworks show, the region is jam-packed with 4th of July events.

Read the rest of this entry »

Springfield Museums’ New Exhibit Snapshots The Emergence of the 20th Century American Individual

Springfield Museums Explore Modern American Masterworks
Friday, June 6, through Sunday, August 31, 2014

Students and enthusiasts of art, art history, and American history will be interested to know that among the works on display in American Moderns are representations of Cubism, Synchromism, Precisionism, Expressionism, and Social Realism, as well as interpretations of folk art and early steam-punk style.

Beginning in June, the Springfield Museums’ Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts will play host to a special traveling exhibition curated by and containing key pieces from the Brooklyn Museum in New York. American Moderns, 1910-1960: From O’Keeffe to Rockwell features over fifty paintings and several sculptures by well-known American artists whose works illustrate the multiple schools of thought and representational techniques that developed during the Modern period: Georgia O’Keeffe, Norman Rockwell, Joseph Stella, Marsden Hartley, Elie Nadelman, Rockwell Kent, and more. While the works in this exhibition are on loan from the Brooklyn Museum, their presence at the Springfield Museums is a good reminder of the masterworks by these artists and their contemporaries that belong to the Springfield Museums’ own collection.

Though the works by these artists may not seem to have much in common with one another at first glance, they each signify a reaction to a society undergoing rapid and dramatic change. The fifty years covered by the exhibition saw two world wars, the success of the women’s suffrage movement, the short-lived Prohibition, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights movement, and the birth of other youth and activist movements; while new technologies for travel, entertainment, communication, and household efficiency became commonplace over increasingly shorter intervals of time. The world felt smaller, and the United States had established itself as an international power, but not every U.S. citizen had achieved the American Dream.

Read the rest of this entry »

HFVS History Through Stories & Songs Episode with Guest DJ, David Grover (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show

Hilltown Family Variety Show
History Through Stories & Songs Episode
Guest DJ, David Grover

Listen to Podcast:

David Grover is our Guest DJ with a History through Stories & Songs Episode. David puts together an eclectic mix of favorite folk songwriters and singers that highlights the history of our country. – www.davidgrover.com

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
May 24 & 25, 2014
Original Broadcast: May 25th & 26th, 2013
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Pete Seeger – “Forever Young”


 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

PLAYLIST

  • Where am I Going A.A. Milne/music Bob Reid
  • God’s Counting on You Pete Seeger/Lorre Wyatt
  • English is Crazy/Pete Seeger
  • If I Only Had a Brain/Liv Taylor
  • John Henry/David Grover
  • Ragtime Cowboy /Joe Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks
  • 4 Little Sailors/Bill Staines
  • The Declaration of Independence/Pete Seeger
  • To the South Pole/Bill Harley
  • The Gettysburg Address
  • Civil War Music/David Grover
  • America the Beautiful/David Grover

Early Twentieth Century Craftwork and Artisans Featured at Historic Deerfield

Early Twentieth Century Craftwork and Artisans Featured at Historic Deerfield

Sarah Cowles (1845-1922), a member of the Pocumtuck Basket Makers, wove an image of Deerfield’s iconic c. 1699 Old Indian House in her basket. Cowles was one of a number of women who was swept up by the William Morris craze for making handmade goods. Founded in 1902 by Madeline Yale Wynne, the group made baskets principally of raffia, a product of Madagascar, and used natural dyes to color their work. Wynne chose the name Pocumtuck to reference the Native Americans who first lived in Deerfield.

The early 1900s sparked a renewed interest in the materials and craftsmanship roughly associated with the colonial period in the United States.  Known in the US as the “American Craftsman” school of thought or as the “Arts & Crafts Movement,” this interest in traditional methods, materials, and styles of craftwork was part of an international design revolution against the mass-production that new industry and machinery had made possible.  The movement, which began in the British Isles in the late 1890s, was initially a socialist rejection of the mechanized, assembly-line-style work that had all but eliminated the creativity and skill that craftsmen (and women) had demonstrated prior to the rise of industry. By elevating the aesthetic significance of these unique, unassuming, artisan-made objects, the Arts & Crafts movement created a new niche for craftworkers and pushed back against the increasing sense of excess in the design world. Ironically, these humble objects inspired by craftsmen of old were not accessible to everyone. Because the materials, time, and skill needed to create high-quality, authentic arts & crafts objects were harder to come by than what the factories produced, each object was competitively priced.

Artists in New England were particularly drawn to the resurgence of traditional handicrafts, and many joined the arts and crafts community that had sprung up in Deerfield.  These artists – ranging from metalsmiths, potters, and furniture makers, to photographers, embroiderers, and basket makers – were heavily inspired by the history of the Deerfield area, and incorporated references to the town’s history in their work.  Several Deerfield artists even achieved national recognition for their crafts.  It is these artists and their work that Historic Deerfield celebrates in their current exhibition, “A Community of Craftwork,” on view now through February 2015.   Read the rest of this entry »

Black History Month: Six Featured New Titles Bring History Alive

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Five New Picks for Kids and One Just for Grown-Ups

In honor of Black History Month, I’ve selected five new kids’ books that bring history alive. Courageous individuals, unsung heroes, and influential, but little-known, events, reach through pages of text, photos, art, and poetry, and connect young readers to the struggles and achievements of the civil rights movement. And as a special addition this month, I have a book recommendation just for grown-ups, because I can’t help spreading the word about a wonderfully outrageous book related to abolitionist John Brown.

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up To Become Malcolm X, written by his daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, and illustrated by AG Ford, tells the story of Malcolm’s boyhood, with a special focus on his parents, Earl and Louise Little, who raised their children with love and “unstoppable optimism and faith.” The enchanted world of his mother’s garden and the stirring speeches of his father help shape Malcolm in his early years. When his father dies and Malcolm and his siblings become wards of the state, his upbringing helps forge an indomitable self-reliance, which carries him through difficult times, and eventually helps him become a zealous leader of equal rights. Lots of emotionally wrought text and rich-hued oil paintings throughout the book’s 48 pages create an intimate portrait of Malcolm’s boyhood. A good read for middle graders and beyond.

Read the rest of this entry »

Holidays & the History of Toys

toy history

While toys are a constant theme throughout childhood, during the holidays the purchasing of toys happen more than any other time of year. Looking forward to the arrival of Santa, many children fantasize about all of the new exciting playthings they might receive as holiday gifts while parents are inundated by internet advertisements, big box sales, e-mail offers, and specially printed catalogs bombard us with lists and lists of things that we could buy for our children.

During the holidays, when we are more aware of the commercial toy industry than ever, that it can be empowering for children to consider the history of toys and the role that they play (and have played) within our society. This theme can be explored on many different levels with children of all ages, and learning about the history of toys can help children to gain perspective on the toys with which that they themselves play. In addition to serving as a lens through which to consider American history and culture, a study of toys can help children to reflect on the role that toys play in their lives – helping them to recognize their preferred activities and unique learning style. Read on…

Museums Trace Jewish Community’s Rise “From Shtetl to Suburb”

“From Shtetl to Suburb: One Hundred Years of Jewish Life in the Valley”
Illustrates Jewish Experience in the Pioneer Valley at the Springfield Museums
Through March 2nd, 2014

“The story of Jewish immigrants and their work to develop a thriving community over the last century is a fascinating tale of courage, hard work, and perseverance,” states Guy McLain, Director of the Wood Museum of Springfield History. “Their story is unique, but also emblematic of the challenges faced by so many immigrant groups throughout America’s history.”

The Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, in conjunction with several noted local organizations and guest curator Dr. Stuart Anfang, invites you to learn about the history of the Jewish community in Western Massachusetts from the late 19th century through the present.  By combining artifacts, photos, film, and personal histories, the exhibition offers multidimensional insights into the experiences of Jewish immigrants fleeing the pogroms of Czarist Russia in the late 19th century.  The exhibit also illustrates the growth of their community in the North End of Springfield, the eventual decline of such inner-city neighborhoods in the aftermath of World War II, and the 1960’s relocation of Springfield’s Jewish community and synagogues to Longmeadow and other parts of Western MA following a major urban renewal project in the North End…

Read the rest of this entry »

HFVS History Through Stories & Songs Episode with Guest DJ, David Grover (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show
History Through Stories & Songs Episode
Guest DJ, David Grover

Listen to Podcast:

David Grover is our Guest DJ with a History through Stories & Songs Episode. David puts together an eclectic mix of favorite folk songwriters and singers that highlights the history of our country. – www.davidgrover.com

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
May 25th & 26th, 2013
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Pete Seeger – “Forever Young”


 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

PLAYLIST

  • Where am I Going A.A. Milne/music Bob Reid
  • God’s Counting on You Pete Seeger/Lorre Wyatt
  • English is Crazy/Pete Seeger
  • If I Only Had a Brain/Liv Taylor
  • John Henry/David Grover
  • Ragtime Cowboy /Joe Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks
  • 4 Little Sailors/Bill Staines
  • The Declaration of Independence/Pete Seeger
  • To the South Pole/Bill Harley
  • The Gettysburg Address
  • Civil War Music/David Grover
  • America the Beautiful/David Grover

George Washington Carver: A Life in Poems

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

In honor of Black History Month I want to share an extraordinary book about an extraordinary human being:

Carver, a life in poems (Front Street, 2001) is an intimate portrait of the botanist, inventor, scientist, artist, musician, and teacher, known as George Washington Carver. Written by acclaimed poet, Marilyn Nelson, the book takes us through Carver’s life in a series of narrative poems told from the voices of the people who knew him, and from Carver himself. Wrought with emotion and meaning, Nelson gives us a biographical experience of a man whose imprint on the world is still felt today.

Born a slave in Missouri in 1864, and raised by the white family that owned his mother, Carver seemed to always have a special spark, a reverence and joy for life, a thirst for knowledge, and an independent spirit, which led him to leave home in 1877, to attend school and begin a life-long quest for learning.

Carver’s curiosity, his hunger for answers, his drive to find out why, what if, propelled him into his destiny, and Nelson captures that in the poem, “Drifter“: “Something says find out / why rain falls, what makes corn proud / and squash so humble, the questions / call like a train whistle so at fourteen, / fifteen, eighteen, nineteen still on half-fare, / over the receding landscapes the perceiving self / stares back from the darkening window.”

Carver put himself through high school and college, studying art and science, washing people’s laundry to support himself. His success was continuous. He became known for his green thumb and his artistic talent. His paintings were exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair, he earned his B.A and M.A. degrees, and joined the faculty at Tuskegee Institute, where he stayed for the rest of his life working on ideas and inventions, from crop rotation and cotton seed to peanut recipes and paint colors. His generous nature dictated that he never profit from his discoveries, instead he gave them away for the benefit of all humankind.

In spare, lyrical language, Nelson takes us through moments in Carver’s life, some public, some private, and reveals a man of uncommon talent and faith. She shows his gifts of observation, his thirst for knowledge, his simmering, creative energy, his insights, and his deep spirituality.

And though Carver’s life was full of the complexities of science and nature, and he never lacked for work to do, the poems also show how he valued simplicity and contemplation. Poems like “Dawn Walk” and “Dimensions of the Milky Way” depict him in quiet conversation with the universe. And light-hearted poems like “The Lace-Maker,” “The Joy of Sewing,” and ”The Wild Garden” express the simple pleasures he took in doing handwork and gathering wild greens. Recurring details like the flowers Carver would wear in the lapels of his second-hand suits not only help us imagine what he looked like but are also tender expressions of his character.

Nelson’s poems do not shy from the harsh racial climate of the era. She portrays Carver’s dedication to the Negro people, and his reactions to lynchings and injustices, with powerful poems like “Goliath.” When his Bible study students ask after another lynching, “Where is God now?” Carver responds, “God is right here. / Don’t lose contact with Him. Don’t yield to fear. / Fear is the root of hate, and hate destroys / the hater … When we lose contact, we see only hate, / only injustice, a giant so great / its shadow blocks our sun. But David slew / Goliath with the only things he knew: / the slingshot of intelligence, and one / pebble of truth.”

Each poem in the book is complete and can stand alone as an exquisite piece of poetry. The poems beckon to be read aloud, and to be read over and over again, peeling back layers of meaning and nuance. Read together in a sequence that spans Carver’s life, with seamless transitions from one poem to the next, and thematic strands that connect the poems to each other, the whole collection creates a stunning portrait of Carver and illuminates the man who he was.

As the book draws to a close, Nelson is able to capture Carver’s divine message of conservation in the poem, “Last Talk with Jim Hardwick”: “When I die I will live again. / By nature I am a conserver. / I have found Nature / to be a conserver, too. / Nothing is wasted / or permanently lost / in Nature. Things / change their form, / but they do not cease / to exist … God would be a bigger fool / than even a man / if He did not conserve / the human soul, / which seems to be / the most important thing / He has yet done in the universe.”

The very last poem, “Moton Field,” connects the past and the present, and Carver to the poet herself. The year is 1943, and we see Carver at the end of his life, penning answers to the letters piled at his bedside. While outside his window the poet’s father, Melvin Moton Nelson, one of the first Tuskegee airmen, is piloting a p-40 airplane ”high as a Negro has ever been.” The book ends with the final image of airman Nelson doing a “sky-roaring victory roll.”

Carver earned over a dozen accolades and awards including the 2001 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, a 2002 Newberry Medal Honor Award, and a 2002 Coretta Scott King Honor Award. Though this was Nelson’s first book for young adults, she was already an accomplished poet with several full-length poetry collections, chap books, and translations. Since the publication of Carver she has written many more books for young people. You can read about her work at www.marilyn-nelson.com/.

Carver: A Life in Poems written by Marilyn Nelson. Published by Front Street, Asheville, NC, 2001. ISBN: 1-886910-53-7


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

Underground Railroad History & Quiz

Underground Railroad Quiz
Listen to the HFVS Podcast Before Taking

Lloyd Miller from the Deedle Deedle Dees writes:

Our friends at the Hilltown Family Variety Show (HFVS) put together a special program all about the Underground Railroad. Our songs “Underground Railroad” and “Henry Box Brown” are on it. So are great versions of traditional songs by Taj Mahal and Bill Harley, a story read by Morgan Freeman and much more. Listen to it right now:

And listen carefully. That’s the only way you’ll pass the quiz we made up related to the show. The quiz is for 4th grade and up (or advanced readers of any age) and may require some extra research in addition to listening to the HFVS podcast.  Post your answers on a blog or Facebook page or public Google doc and share your link here.

Try to avoid using Wikipedia. Searching songbooks, history books, Bibles, and other tomes you hopefully have on your family’s shelves — or in your local library — will be a much more enjoyable way to find the information you don’t know already (Western MA resources available here).

  1. In our song “Underground Railroad,” what is the secret password needed to board? It’s actually three words.
  2. Name three cities or towns that were part of the Underground Railroad — and that we mention in our song about it.
    What is the “drinking gourd” described in the story read by Morgan Freeman and sung about by Taj Mahal?
  3. In the traditional song “Wade In the Water,” (Bill Harley’s version can be heard on the podcast) who, as the lyrics ask, are “these children all dressed in red” and “that young girl dressed in white?” There isn’t one right answer — tell us what you’ve read and what you think. (Hint: Many spirituals and Underground Railroad songs contained coded lyrics and secret messages)
  4. Henry “Box” Brown mailed himself to freedom in a box. In which city did he finally climb out of his box a free man?
  5. A state and a musical instrument are mentioned in “Nelly Grey” (Phil Rosenthal sings the version you hear on the podcast). Which state? Which instrument?
  6. Why was “Nelly Grey” written (Another question without one answer. We want your opinions as well as the results of your research)?
  7. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (Leadbelly and a choir close out the podcast with their version) describes a trip to heaven — or to freedom — in a real or metaphorical chariot. Which prophet left life on this Earth in a chariot according to the Old Testament?

Deedle Deedle Dee-Endorsed History Resources

Town Meetings: Democracy in Action in Rural New England

Local Government in Rural Communities
Talk at the Meekins Library
Williamsburg ♦ April 15th @ 2pm

Robinson's book, "Town Meeting," "traces the origins of town-meeting democracy in Ashfield, a community of just under 2,000 people in the foothills of the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. Donald Robinson begins by recounting several crises at the town's founding in the eighteenth century that helped to shape its character. He shows how the town has changed since then and examines how democratic self-government functions in the modern context."

Small, rural towns are much different in structure than urban and suburban areas are.  Instead of electing officials to make decisions, many small towns have an annual town meeting where community members can contribute their thoughts on issues being voted on.  This unique structure of government allows rural communities the opportunity to practice democracy on a very small scale – and it offers the opportunity for more voices to be heard.

On Sunday, April 15th at 2pm, the Meekins Library in Williamsburg is hosting a talk with Don Robinson, author of Town Meeting: Practicing Democracy in Rural New England.  Robinson, an Ashfield resident and former Smith College government professor, will speak about the unique event that is town meeting and how it reflects the democratic structure that our government is based on.

The talk is great for older students who are studying American History and/or government, as well as those who are beginning to participate in the local community more.  Attending the talk can help students learn about the importance of local government and the autonomy that town meeting allows small towns to have.  For more information, call Meekins Library at 413-268-7472.

“This Day in History” Video Series

Discovering New England History with
The Freedom Trail Foundation Daily Video Series

Are your kids interested in Colonial History? Boston’s Freedom Trail Foundation offers a daily dose of history on their YouTube channel!  Every day, the group debuts a new clip (generally 30-40 seconds) offering information about an event that took place on that day in early American history!  Centered around the Revolutionary War, the clips feature historical re-enactors dressed in period costumes.  The information they offer covers a variety of topics- everything from the aftermath of the Boston Massacre to the settling of new areas surrounding Boston.

Of course the videos are presented in chronological order, but you don’t have to see every single one!  Watching a few a week can provide a way for families to learn about history together and extend their study of the American Revolution and Colonial Studies throughout the entire year.  Even watching the videos occasionally can be a fun learning activity- think together about all of the changes that have taken place in American society between the event discussed in the video and the events taking place today!

Here’s an example of what you can view:

The foundation’s YouTube channel can be found at
www.youtube.com/user/FreedomTrailBoston.

Museums to Join Public Reading of Frederick Douglass Speech

Springfield Museums to Join Public Reading of Frederick Douglass Speech
Wednesday, June 30th at Noon

The communal reading and discussion of abolitionist Frederick Douglass's 1852 speech, "The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro" would be a great supplement to America history curriculum for older students. Younger students can discover Frederick Douglass at home in David Adler's book, "A Picture Book of Frederick Douglass."

The Springfield Museums are participating in a communal reading of Frederick Douglass’s fiery 1852 speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro.” The shared reading will take place at noon on June 30th in Court Square in Springfield and will be followed by a discussion at First Church.

On July 5, 1852, Douglass, a former slave and leading abolitionist, addressed the “race question” at an event in Rochester, NY, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. “Fellow-citizens,” he began, “why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” The full text of the speech is available online at the Mass Humanities website, www.masshumanities.org.

The program is intended to take up the challenge leveled by Barack Obama at Constitution Hall in Philadelphia: “I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle. Race is an issue this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. To work for ‘a more perfect union’ we need to start to understand complexities that we’ve never really worked through. [This] requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point.”

The event is part of a state-wide series of readings which is partially funded by a We the People grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Local collaborating organizations are Mass Humanities, the Springfield Cultural Council, Art for the Soul Gallery, and the Springfield Museums. Additional sponsors are The Brethren, Olive Tree Books and Voices, PAHMUSA, Springfield NAACP, and the Teaching American History Program of the Springfield Public Schools.

Museum of Springfield History Presents an Underground Railroad Lecture on Sunday

Underground Railroad Talk
Museum of Springfield History
April 11th @ 2pm

National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, historical site in Florence, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Many families emailed to let me know how much they appreciated the Underground Railroad Episode of the Hilltown Family Variety Show as a supplement to their children’s studies. Another opportunity for older students to learn about the Underground Railroad will be this Sunday, April 11th in Springfield, MA. At 2pm, the new Museum of Springfield History will host a talk titled “The Underground Railroad in Western Massachusetts.” The program will be held in the museum’s SIS Hall and is free with the price of museum admission. Museum passes may be available to check out from your local library.

The talk will be presented by historian Steve Strimer of the David Ruggles Center for Early Florence History and Underground Railroad Studies. The Ruggles Center, named for an early abolitionist, documents the movement and settlement of fugitive slaves in the Connecticut River corridor of Massachusetts. Strimer will discuss what has been preserved and uncovered about the Underground Railroad, particularly in Florence and Springfield.

For older kids studying the California Gold Rush, there will be a talk “Springfield and the California Gold Rush” on April 25th.

The series is co-sponsored by the Pioneer Valley History Network, a coalition of historical museums, libraries, and societies. The Museum of Springfield History is located on the Quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street in downtown Springfield. Free parking is available in the Edwards Street parking lots. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $12.50 for adults, $9 for seniors and college students, $6.50 for children 3-17, and free for children under three and museum members. Springfield residents are free with proof of address. The fee provides admission to all four Springfield Museums at the Quadrangle. For information, call 413-263-6800 or visit http://www.springfieldmuseums.org.

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