MARY ANNING, FOSSIL HUNTER: Born in England in 1799, Mary Anning became a fossil hunter in her youth, discovering several important fossils off the cliffs of her native Dorset that would change the course of paleontology and would lay the foundation for Darwin's theory of evolution. Many scientists throughout Europe and America sought her consultation about prehistoric anatomy, but because she was female, she was neither allowed to pursue a career in science nor eligible to join the Geological Society of London. After more than a century of obscurity, Anning is finally being recognized for her amazing contributions.
CLEOPATRA: LIBERATED WOMAN: This program explores the life of one of history’s most misunderstood women: Cleopatra. She married and buried 2 of her brothers, captivated 2 of the most powerful men of her time only to bury them also, and—famously—took her own life at the age of 39 with the help of an asp. A highly educated queen who took the throne at age 18, she outwitted her 10-year-old brother-husband's advisors, and seduced the 52-year-old Julius Caesar by rolling herself up in a carpet and having herself delivered to his room—all before age 21. She was, simply put, the most powerful woman of her time— known for her liaisons, her masterful political skills, and for her role as mother to four. Painted by the Romans as an evil seductress, Cleopatra has more recently found redemption a couple millennia later from historians with a slightly different perception.
JILL TARTER AND THE SEARCH FOR E.T. Jill Tarter has spent more than 40 years working on a Holy Grail search for life beyond planet Earth. Tarter, an astronomer and co-founder of the SETI Institute in California, is also the inspiration for Ellie Arroway, the alien-hunting protagonist of Carl Sagan’s 1985 classic novel Contact and the award-winning 1997 Jodie Foster film adaptation. While Sagan and his friends were popularizing the mysteries of the universe in books and television, Tarter was working behind the scenes, spending countless hours managing underfunded telescopes, fundraising for projects, publishing paper after paper, and trying to convince skeptics that the search for extraterrestrial life, this strange new field, was worth it. This Women’s History Month program celebrates the many achievements of this remarkable scientist.
HARRIET TUBMAN: AND STILL I RISE After 27 years trapped in the unending, dehumanizing grind of slavery, Harriet Tubman broke free and began an extraordinary life. For ten years she was one of the chief conductors on the Underground Railroad; during the Civil War, she became a spy and the first woman to lead a U.S. Army military assault; and for the next 50 years continued as a fierce advocate for freed black people, a voice for the aged, and a fighter for women’s suffrage. This program explores the remarkable life of a woman who, more than ever, still speaks to us--and challenges us.
H. G. WELLS: THE MAN WHO INVENTED TOMORROW In classic novels like The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man, he practically invented science fiction. But those seminal works were just a small part of his life. H.G. Wells wrote over 160 books covering fields from fiction to history to political commentary. In his day he was one of the most famous and influential thinkers in the world. This program explores the startling range of predictions he made forecasting everything from chemical warfare and the atom bomb to computer chips and modern birth control! We'll see how his vision of the future darkened as he aged and the horrors of World War II threatened to put an end to his hopes for humanity. This is a revealing look at the life of "the man who invented tomorrow."
THE HAUNTED HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN Every October 31, pint-sized ghouls and goblins wander through neighborhoods knocking on doors and asking for treats . . . little do they know they're actually carrying out an ancient tradition dating back thousands of years. Discover how the "trick-or-treat" custom originated during the harvest festivals in ancient Ireland when food and sweets were used to coax the dead into remaining in the spirit world. Learn how Christianity tried to co-opt the celebration by turning it into All Saints Day but how the underlying--and sometimes controversial--dark elements of the holiday have survived. THE HAUNTED HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN takes a captivating journey through the mysterious tales behind the spookiest night of the year.
WOMEN OF THE STARS We celebrate the achievements of ten contemporary astronomers who have changed the way we look at our planet and the Universe in which we live. Vera Rubin, Nancy Roman, Margaret Geller, and Jill Tarter are just a few of the remarkable scientists whose accomplishments have truly opened up the cosmos. This program will look at astronomers whose ground-breaking, sky-opening work we should all know and whose lives should inspire all of us--especially young women--to advance our world towards a better future.
GRIM(M) TALES: For over two hundred years, the remarkable stories of the Brothers Grimm have fascinated and sometimes terrified us. Between 1812 and 1857, seven editions of their often dark-hued folk tales--200 stories and 11 legends--found their way into the Western consciousness. This presentation first defines what a folk tale is and then explores the meticulous research that Jacob and Wilhelm undertook to accomplish their goal of collecting significant stories from around Europe; their accomplishments have created the great archetypes for much modern literature, sociology, and psychology.
GODS AND MONSTERS This program explores some of the world’s great myths with a focus on the gods and heroes who create or fight remarkable foes, both natural and invented. Whirlpools, dragons, and towering beasts are among the many challenges that humans and deities must overcome. Because these myths have become the basis for the archetypes of literature, art, and psychology, their importance to modern culture is immeasurable.
VINCENT VAN GOGH Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853 – 1890), the Dutch post-impressionist painter, is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade, he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of which date from the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and over 30 self-portraits--all characterized by bold colors and dramatic, impulsive, and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. Despite all of this creative output, Van Gogh was a deeply troubled soul who finally found peace through suicide at 37 after years of mental illness, depression, and abject poverty.
THE SHADOW WORLD OF BAYARD RUSTIN This is the story of Bayard Rustin, a close advisor to Martin Luther King and, though unknown to many, one of the most influential and effective organizers of the civil rights movement. Rustin organized and led a number of protests in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, including the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. While Rustin’s homosexuality and former affiliation with the Communist Party often forced him to live in the shadows, King and others recognized the importance of Rustin’s skills and dedication to the movement. Today, this unsung hero is finally getting the recognition he deserves.
MARY SHELLEY The child of two famous parents--William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft--Mary herself became one of the most prominent figures in the world of literary arts, primarily through her first, remarkable novel, Frankenstein, published while she was still a teenager--and through her marriage to the radical Romantic poet, Percy Shelley. This program not only explores her marriage and her unflagging efforts to immortalize her husband’s poetry after his untimely death but also examines the other books she wrote, including the eerily timely novel The Last Man that examines the effects of a devastating viral pandemic and the resulting political, social, and economic collapse that follows. Clearly a mind ahead of its time, Shelly’s life-story is an inspiring one.
WILLIAM STILL AND THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD Often called "The Father of the Underground Railroad," William Still helped as many as 800 slaves escape to freedom during the Civil War era. He interviewed each person and kept careful records, including a brief biography and the destination for each, along with any alias adopted. He kept his records carefully hidden but knew the accounts would be critical in aiding the future reunion of family members who became separated under slavery, which he had learned when he aided his own brother Peter, whom he had previously never met before. Still worked with other Underground Railroad agents operating in the South and in many counties in southern Pennsylvania. His network to freedom also included agents in New Jersey, New York, New England and Canada. Conductor Harriet Tubman traveled through his office with fellow passengers on several occasions during the 1850s and Still forged a connection with the family of John Brown. After the Civil War, Still published his authoritative account, The Underground Railroad Records (1872), based on the secret notes he had kept in diaries during those years. His book has been integral to the history of these years, as he carefully recorded many details of the workings of the Underground Railroad. It went through three editions and in 1876 was displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.
WE ARE THE MARTIANS! For the Romans, Mars was the god of war; for 19th century astronomers, Mars was a remarkable world possessing cities and vast canal systems. By the late 1900’s we knew that Mars--now covered by craters, volcanoes, canyons, and deserts--was once a world with oceans, rivers, and possible life. Today, Mars is our next destination--not just for a visit but as the next place for us humans to live. Mars is the new Wild West where we’ll become the Martians. Join us to discover what a colonizing mission would entail--the planning, training, risks, and potential achievements.
THE AUDACIOUS ADVENTURES OF NELLIE BLY In late 1889, a young reporter named Nelly Bly set out to accomplish what others had only dreamed of, to make the fantasy of Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days a reality. Seventy-two days after departing Hoboken, she arrived back in New Jersey on January 25th, 1890--the first person--man or woman--to circle the globe with such speed. But Bly’s story is even more remarkable: As one of Joseph Pulitzer’s prize reporters, she spent years documenting the lives of America’s underclass. The first story to put her in the forefront was a remarkable account of her experience in a “madhouse.” Posing as a mentally unstable woman, Bly spent ten harrowing days in the most infamous asylum in New York City. Her expose of the horrors she witnessed and experienced shook the city and America to the core. This would be the first of many stories Bly would write as a covert reporter, single-handedly creating a whole new genre of journalism: Underground investigative reporting. What really made Bly a household name was that she spent a lifetime doing things a “reserved” Victorian woman just wasn’t supposed to do.
BANNED IN AMERICA When you walk into a library, you’re entering a controversial place--for it’s a venue where you can read, listen to, and watch media that could be considered potentially “dangerous” depending on where (or when) you live. When Rameses II in 1279 BCE obliterated the hieroglyphic memorials to his father, he was doing what many rulers and societies have done throughout history: Attempt to control who is remembered, what is to be seen and heard, and how we are to behave. This presentation explores some of the history of the long saga of censorship and the need some cultures have to silence certain writers, artists, and musicians. We’ll look specifically at America, where there continues to be a heated debate regarding exactly how “free” creative minds really are when it comes to expressing feelings and ideas. Finally, using recent data collected by the American Library Association, we’ll look at on-going examples of censorship, examine the probable roots/causes of such censorship, and explore whether total freedom of expression is actually possible.
JACKSON POLLOCK This program explores the true story behind the enigmatic Long Island artist whose iconic splatter and drip techniques forever changed the face of Abstract painting in the 20th century. From his lifelong struggle with alcohol to his tumultuous marriage to the painter Lee Krasner, Pollock’s life was a perpetual whirl of drama.
THE HOLIDAYS UNWRAPPED The month of December is a month of celebrations that go back thousands of years. In ancient times, the winter solstice marked the beginning of vigil that would lead to the rebirth of Spring. In the second century BC, the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire led to the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The church in Rome began formally celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth on December 25 in 336, during the reign of the emperor Constantine. And Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of African Studies at California State University, first created Kwanzaa in 1966 in response to the Watts Riots in Los Angeles in 1965, and as a way to bring Black Americans together as a community. This program explores the fascinating history behind these four holidays that untold numbers of people celebrate every year.
QUEEN BOUDICA OF THE CELTS Ask any English child about Boudica, and he or she will tell you tales of one of Britain’s greatest heroines. But to many on this side of The Pond, Boudica’s story is still unknown. This program attempts to correct that. Boudica remains one of the most remarkable leaders in Western History. She slaughtered a Roman army. She torched Londinium, leaving a charred layer almost half a meter thick that can still be traced under modern London. According to the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus, her army killed as many as 70,000 civilians in Londinium (London), Verulamium (St. Albans) and Camulodunum (Colchester), rushing “to cut throats, hang, burn, and crucify.” Who was she? Why was she so angry? How could a “mere woman” command such an enormous army? Her story is guaranteed to inspire.
THE SALEM WITCHES When we think of witches and demons, we usually think of horror movies or Halloween. But for America’s 17th-century Puritan settlers, such beings were believed to be a reality, not superstition, and their new home in Massachusetts a place filled with fear and uncertainty. The early colonies were an experiment that—coupled with a backdrop of religious extremism—bred an anxiety so intense it ultimately turned deadly. As a result of religious/civic trials held between February 1692 and May 1693, 19 men and women were put to death following the unsustainable testimony of several young girls. In the end, the tale of the Salem witches is a frightening cautionary tale about the effects of mob psychology.
NIKOLA TESLA: LIGHTENING MAN Born during a fierce July lightning storm in 1856, Nicola Tesla became one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century--a man whose life-story has grown to mythic proportions in recent years. This presentation recounts the life of the visionary inventor often remembered equally as both an eccentric cult figure and an electrical engineering genius. For years, many of his achievements were attributed to contemporaries Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi. Now that the truth has been uncovered, we can give Tesla his due--and be grateful for his many achievements that have changed our world and our day-to-day lives.
DINOSAURS AMONG US! Look up. See that bird? Guess what? It’s really a dinosaur! And have you seen recent pictures of a T-Rex or a Raptor lately? Yes, there they are: Some of the most savage killing machines Nature ever produced--covered with feathers! This program will take us on a journey through time to show how some of the great theropods (dinosaurs that walked on their hind legs) not only possessed feathers, but survived the great asteroid extinction of 65 million years ago and evolved into modern birds. We’ll explore the latest scientific research and discoveries along with photos and artist’s renderings of amazing ancient creatures that have become our airborne companions today. From their “fuzzy” beginnings over 200 million years ago to the ten thousand species that we see around us, the evolution of birds is one of the most fascinating stories in all of science. You’ll never look at a fossil, a picture of a dinosaur, or a modern bird in quite the same way again--not to mention your next turkey or chicken dinner. Who knew KFC was really serving dinosaurs!
ALLEN GINSBERG Best known for his trail-blazing poem “Howl,” Ginsberg transformed the face of the American literary arts. Born born in 1926, in Newark, New Jersey, he became one of the founding fathers of the Beat Generation. Ginsberg was a prolific writer who also championed gay rights and anti-war movements, protesting the Vietnam War and coining the phrase "Flower Power." Even with his countercultural background, he became recognized as one of American's foremost writers and artistic icons.
FREEDOM SUMMER In 1964, national attention turned to Mississippi when three Civil Rights workers (two white and one black) were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. This watershed moment eventually led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, put under threat by recent Supreme Court rulings. This program explores the remarkable courage of young people willing to put their lives on the line for the most precious right of a democracy--the right to vote.
SANTA CLAUS: THE BIOGRAPHY For untold millions of children of all ages, December not only means the Holiday Season but a talk with Santa at the local mall, a midnight visitation from him on December 24th, or watching countless movies about him on TV. What’s equally remarkable is how Santa came to be such a global presence; there’s no corner of the planet where Santa isn’t known and loved. Explore the humble origins of the real-life Saint Nicholas over seventeen hundred years ago and trace the development of his legend across the centuries, sampling treasured stories from Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
THE URGENCY OF TONI MORRISON Explore the life and legacy of Toni Morrison, whose best-selling work examined racial and gender identity in America — particularly the often-crushing experience of black women — through incandescent prose resembling that of no other writer in English. She was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature and the author of 11 novels as well as 5 children’s books (written with her son Slade) and several essay collections. In these turbulent times, her work is essential reading.
KING ARTHUR The historical basis for the King Arthur legend has long been debated by scholars. The first datable mention of King Arthur is in a 9th century text. One school of thought sees Arthur as a genuine historical figure, a Roman-British leader who fought against the invading Anglo-Saxons in the late 5th to early 6th century. In these tales, he is presented as a gallant military commander and a noble king. Yet at the core of this epic hero lies a vulnerable lover eventually undone by his unwavering devotion to the woman he loves. Arthur’s story remains one of the indisputable foundations of Western culture. This program examines the many remarkable facets of Arthur--both the facts and the myths.
SEX IN THE STONE AGE: OUR HYBRID DNA In 2012, geneticists made yet another remarkable discovery. Not only do many modern humans possess anywhere from 2 to 4 percent Neanderthal DNA, whole groups also bear the DNA of at least one other species, the Denisovans. A fragment of a pinky bone and a tooth twice the size of today’s average molar are the only remnants of a species of humans that we know lived thousands of centuries ago at the same time and place as Homo sapiens—and interbred with them. They are a part of us that we never knew existed. What did these fellow humans look like? And how do they fit into what we thought we knew about our biological development as a species. This program explores the long and winding road that leads to our being the only species of human out of at least thirty that is still standing—and helps explain why every one of us has a remnant of DNA from some of those other species still flowing in our blood. OUR NEANDERTHAL COUSINS Thanks to the groundbreaking work of Svante Paabo and his team at the Max Planck Institute, we now know that our Neanderthal cousins were not the ignorant, grunting cavemen that popular culture has made them out to be. Just as adaptive as Homo sapiens, Neanderthals were remarkable tool makers; they also created art, had language, performed rituals, and formed tight knit social connections. This program will explore the latest research and help to dispel our stereotypes.
OH, THE PLACES WE’VE BEEN When we Homo sapiens made our first appearance on the African plains around 200-thousand years ago, we were content to stay put. We had plenty of food, we apparently mingled somewhat peacefully with other hominins like Homo erectus, and we enjoyed a fairly contented life. But around 100-thousand years ago, things began to change: The climate in many areas of Africa began to shift, food supplies became more scarce, and our numbers dwindled. As a result, we began to trek out of our homelands in small clan groups into the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and eventually the Americas. This program takes a look at that remarkable Odyssey across the planet where we encountered Neanderthals and strange prehistoric beasts; remarkable varieties of terrain including ice-age glaciers, towering mountain ranges, and searing deserts; and novel sources of food. Because each new home left its mark on our DNA, we are now--through the wonders of genetic science--able to trace our extraordinary journey--and perhaps determine why we’re the last hominin standing. Our move from the African homeland to the four corners of the globe is truly epic and we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those brave, small bands of humans who dared to step out of their comfort zone into the unknown so many millennia ago.
THE QUEEN OF MYSTERY: AGATHA CHRISTIE Born on September 15th, 1890, Agatha Christie became over her 85 years the most famous mystery writer in the world. Indeed, the Guinness Book of World Records goes further and lists Christie as the best-selling novelist of all time. Her novels have sold roughly 2 billion copies, and her estate claims that her works come third in the rankings of the world's most-widely published books, behind only Shakespeare's works and the Bible. Who was this remarkable woman? How did she come to write her indelible works? Why is she still such a popular literary figure? These and other questions will be explored along with a real life mystery about Christie’s dramatic disappearance in 1926 that remains substantially unsolved to this day. As the chill of autumn arrives, let’s settle in with a few good thrillers.
THE REAL THANKSGIVING On the fourth Thursday of November every year, countless millions of Americans gather around the table--and the television--to enjoy a banquet, football, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s a tradition that goes back decades. But it wasn’t always so--and that’s what this program examines. We’ll look at that first sport-famished, non-Santa, un-apple-pie Thanksgiving in the early 17th century and see how that straight-forward, rather modest feast among early colonials and indigenous peoples transformed into the most widely celebrated event in our country, a day on which more Americans travel than any other holiday. We’ll explore regional traditions, folklore, music, and even a few recipes--and try to discover the “thanks” in Thanksgiving.
AND STILL WE RISE: HARRIET AND SOJOURNER Two Black women--one from upstate New York, one from rural Maryland--helped to reshape America. Today, as we again deal with ongoing bigotry, prejudice, and racial divides in our nation, the personal stories of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth inspire us to tap into our “better selves.” The women only met later in life, but beforehand, their often parallel lives became an inspiration and a firebrand. Tubman, born Araminta Ross, often referred to as the "Black Moses" of the Underground Railroad, dedicated her life to creating safe passages for slaves to escape to freedom and Truth, born Isabella Baumfree, worked to abolish slavery, promote equal rights for women, and eradicate the use of alcohol among men and women. Both women rose from the shadows of slavery to prominent roles of leadership, had deep and abiding faiths in a higher power to guide and protect them, recognized the power of music as a means of communication, and believed in, and acted on, their premonitions. This PowerPoint presentation delves into the lives and impact of Tubman and Truth--and the need to embrace their stories in our troubled times.
THE IMAGINATION OF JULES VERNE This program a celebration of the French author who pioneered the science fiction genre. Best known for his novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travels long before air travel and submarines were invented, and before practical means of space travel had been devised. He remains the second most translated author in the world (after Agatha Christie)--a writer whose remarkable imagination still sparks ours today.
MARTIN LUTHER KING: THE THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW Every third Monday in January, the nation pauses to remember the life and legacy of Martin Luther King. This PowerPoint presentation explores his life as well as over a dozen different facts that you may not have known about this iconic figure that help fill in the picture we have of this complex human being. For example, did you know: Besides George Washington, King is the only American-born individual to have a national holiday celebrated in his honor--a holiday fraught with controversy in many circles; that the precocious King entered Morehouse College at age 15 where he studied sociology--ordained ministry was an afterthought; or that six years before his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, the 28-year old King gave a rousing speech at the Lincoln Memorial about voting rights for Blacks that put him in the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. Here’s a chance to delve a little deeper into the man and his legacy--and to see why his story is still so meaningful and relevant to our own lives today.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 9981: BEFORE AND AFTER Dr. Bill Thierfelder helps us explore the often deeply troubled history of African-Americans serving in our armed forces, using Executive Order 9981 as a “before and after” focal point. On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed his Order, which integrated the military and mandated equality of treatment and opportunity for all Blacks in the various branches. It even made it illegal, per military law, to make a racist remark. But the actual desegregation of the military was not complete for several years, and all-black Army units persisted well into the Korean War. Indeed, the last all-black unit wasn't disbanded until 1954. Clearly, this demarcation line between a segregated and integrated armed forces didn’t miraculously end bigotry and prejudice. This PowerPoint presentation looks at the fascinating and inspiring contributions of the brave men and women who have protected our country from the Revolutionary War to the present--and at the many obstacles that Blacks faced to achieve the respect and honor they so deserve.
TRAILBLAZERS: AFRICAN AMERICANS IN SPACE Dr. Bill Thierfelder introduces us to some of the remarkable African Americans who’ve helped shape America’s space program and who’ve introduced millions to the wonders of the Universe. For those who have read books like RISE OF THE ROCKET GIRLS or seen films like HIDDEN FIGURES, you’re well aware of the group of African-American women who helped to make the Space Race of the 1960’s and the Space Program today the success that it was and is. And if you watch science programs on television, you surely have encountered astronomers like Neil deGrasse Tyson. This PowerPoint presentation examines the lives of these trailblazers, including scientists Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan as well as astronauts Mae Jemison and Ronald McNair. Who are these adventurous women and women--and how did some of them help launch NASA into the Civil Rights revolution and into our burgeoning era of Lunar and Martian exploration?
THE SUMMER OF ‘69 In 1969, America experienced one of its most extraordinary summers. In addition to the ongoing unrest revolving around the Viet Nam War and Civil Rights, three pivotal milestones occurred: The Stonewall Riots, which marked the beginning of the modern LGBTQ era; the Apollo moon landing, which became the crowning achievement of a decade-long “Space Race”; and Woodstock, probably the single most important cultural event of the era. Join us as we relive the season that changed the face of America forever.
EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS: JUNGLES, MARTIANS, AND DINOSAURS On September 1st, 1875, one of the most popular writers of all time was born: Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs created over 60 novels that continue to thrill the imaginations of readers around the world. In addition to his many Tarzan and John Carter novels--both series first appearing in 1912--he also created fantastic tales about the Moon, Venus, and a civilization deep inside Earth, along with other notable novels such as The Land Time Forgot and The Mucker. Tarzan in particular remains one of the most enduring literary figures ever created and has inspired everything from a successful Broadway musical to dozens of classic films. This presentation examines Burroughs lasting status and the extraordinary influence his work has had on other writers and film directors. The leap from John Carter to Indiana Jones is a short one. Indeed, in a Paris Review interview, Ray Bradbury said that "Burroughs never would have looked upon himself as a social mover and shaker with social obligations. But as it turns out – and I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly – Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world." We might argue about the truth of Bradbury’s obviously provocative statement--but he’s right in the sense that whole generations of young people, especially boys, saw in Burroughs’s characters role models for a life of daring-do and testing the limits of mind and endurance.
LANGSTON HUGHES AND THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE In this program, we explore the contributions of Langston Hughes, one of the most visible writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes work ranged from novels to plays. He also wrote short stories, children’s books, translations, and anthologies as well. However, his most widely appreciated pieces were his poems. After dropping out of Columbia University in 1922, he began to spend every waking moment in Harlem, supporting himself on odd jobs and writing. His writing reflected the idea that black culture should be celebrated because of its value to the fabric of America and the world. He advocated these beliefs in many of his most famous poems, including “I, Too, Sing America,” “Let America be America Again,” and “Hold Fast to Dreams.” Today, Hughes is recognized as one of the towering figures of American Literature whose accessible poetry challenges us to explore the power of diversity to create unity.
UNSUNG HEROES OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT We've all heard of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Malcolm X--each household names for their involvement with the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. But this Black History Month program explores the lives of some of the unsung heroes who helped re-shape the American scene. Have you heard of Nannie Helen Burroughs who fired up the crowd in 1900 with her impassioned “How the Sisters Are Hindered From Helping” or Bayard Rustin who had to remain in the shadows of King and Randolph because he was gay? How about Pauli Murray who became the first Black woman ordained an Episcopalian priest or Ella Baker or Claudette Colvin who was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus nine months before Rosa Parks? Even though they stayed out of the limelight or simply predated the 1960s, the contributions of these individuals were just as important in fueling the movement as were the legendary historical figures we learned about in school. Come celebrate these “other heroes” in the fight for equality.
15,000 BC: THIS IS YOUR LIFE Imagine what it was like: Waking up in your cave or animal-skin hut, hearing the roar of sabre-tooth tigers, the shriek of vultures, or the bellowing trumpets of mammoths. Imagine a time when the last of the Neanderthals have gone extinct and only small clans of modern humans remain, when we have to learn quickly how to deal with the untold dangers of life in the wild. This program focuses on the day-to-day life of an imaginary family living 17,000 years ago. What would their existence be like? Would it differ depending on their location--would a family in Europe have a different life in Asia or Africa? And what if our family were in the earliest waves of humans making the journey into the Americas? What dizzying array of terrors and wonders would await them? Join us and find out what your life would be like in an age when every day was quite literally a matter of life or death.
HEDY LAMARR: THE BEAUTY AND THE INVENTOR Hedy Lamarr: “Bombshell” actress who starred in such hit films as Algiers (1938), Lady of the Tropics (1939), Boom Town (1940), and Samson and Delilah (1949). Inventor who created technology that is still used today in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi systems. Eccentric shoplifter. Famous recluse who spent much of her last thirty years communicating with the outside world for six or seven hours a day via telephone. Lamarr was all of these things and so much more. Come discover one of the more fascinating life stories of the 20th century.
THE BIG ONE: Historic Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis Nearly every day, there are public service announcements on Pacific Northwest television stations regarding earthquake preparedness--and a drive down any stretch of the 101 reveals signs every few miles showing tsunami evacuation routes. In other words, we’re reminded regularly that we citizens of Washington and Oregon live in an active earthquake, volcano, and tsunami zone. This program looks at some of the major seismic and volcanic events of the last few thousand years--not only in the Northwest, but around the Pacific Rim--and helps separate fear-filled hype from science-based facts. We’ll look at the causes for earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis and how tectonic movement changes our globe across time, and explore cutting edge technology that’s being used to predict when and where the next event might occur.
FAILURE? WHO SAYS? Fame is a fickle thing. It's elusive. It teases, it comes, it goes. At its most mischievous, it arrives with aplomb after those seeking it have died. This program explores some household names like Melville, Bach, Van Gogh, and Dickinson who were practically unknown in their lifetimes despite often prodigious effort and output. None of them could have known just how famous they would become posthumously. How profound it is to consider what unknown legacy may await us after we're gone. The takeaway? Never give up.
JACK THE RIPPER This presentation focuses on one of the most elusive criminals--and remarkable “cold case”--in the annals of justice. Jack the Ripper is the best-known name given to an unidentified serial killer who was active in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The name originated in a letter written by someone claiming to be the murderer that was widely disseminated in the media. The letter is widely believed to have been a hoax and may have been written by a journalist in a deliberate attempt to heighten interest in the story. And that’s only one of the frustrating mysteries surrounding "the Whitechapel Murderer.” Hide the knives; it’s time for a little murder!
MARK TWAIN Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Twain (1835--1910) was a humorist, journalist, lecturer, and novelist who garnered international fame for his travel narratives, including The Innocents Abroad (1869), Roughing It (1872), and Life on the Mississippi (1883), and for his adventure stories of boyhood, most especially The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), a book often considered the quintessential “great American novel”. A gifted raconteur and irascible moralist, he transcended the apparent limitations of his humble Missouri origins to become one of America’s best and most beloved writers.
SUSAN B. ANTHONY Susan Brownell Anthony, (1820--1906) was an American activist who became a pioneer crusader for the women’s suffrage movement in the United States and was president (1892–1900) of the National Woman Suffrage Association. This program explores how her work helped pave the way for the Nineteenth Amendment (1920) to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote.
WE, TOO: THE LEGACY OF SENECA FALLS: On two blistering hot days in 1848, a group of women and supportive men led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott met in a sleepy upstate New York town for what would become one of the pivotal events in American history: the first Women’s Rights Convention. This program delves into the lives of some of the remarkable women who made the convention a reality--and into that gathering’s legacy and impact down through the decades. What would the women of Seneca Falls think of 21st Century America and the #MeToo Movement, the role of women in the workplace and politics, or the very first woman Vice President? Indeed, these inspiring women still have remarkable things to teach us.
THE EVOLUTION OF CHARLES DARWIN Evolution. The word still stirs controversy over 160 years after the shy English naturalist published the Origin of Species. This program explores the life of a man who overcame numerous personal obstacles--physical, spiritual, and professional--to become, reluctantly, a household name. From his famous voyage on the HMS Beagle, his work on the Galápagos Islands, to his life-altering decision to publish works like The Descent of Man, Darwin’s scientific productivity represented an ongoing struggle to remain true to himself while trying to be faithful to his role as a member of Victorian society as well as a dutiful husband and father of ten children.
THE GHOSTS OF CHARLES DICKENS Like the characters in his novels and short stories, Charles Dickens was an amalgam of often conflicting feelings and loyalties. Without exaggeration, nearly everything he wrote was autobiographical. This program examines the life of the most famous novelist of his era--a life marked by fame and misfortune, happiness and a perpetual, restless uneasiness. He was a man driven by the need to overcome his insecurities--a writer haunted by the very ghosts he sometimes created in his stories.
THE WORLDS OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT The daughter of a storied family, she became the wife of an unfaithful husband, who didn’t let her personal pain override her need to help others. Arguably the most influential First Lady in American history, she continued her work as a philanthropist and humanitarian long after the president’s death. This program looks at her work as a trail-blazing civil rights advocate, a feminist, and one of driving forces behind the United Nations as well as a deeply lonely woman who found love in a series of extraordinary friendships.
FREDERICK DOUGLASS This is the life of a truly remarkable man: A person who escaped the bonds of servitude; who taught himself to read, write, and speak with eloquence; who composed one of the most famous autobiographies of the 19th century; who put his life on the line to help others overcome the horrors of slavery; who still inspires millions with his forthright honesty and determination.
THE HAUNTING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE The life of Edgar Allan Poe is as haunting as the ones that fill the stories and poems he composed in his short, often tumultuous life. He was a prominent critic, a short fiction master, a competent poet, and a husband obsessively devoted to his child bride. Now considered one of the great literary geniuses of world literature, in his life Poe was the epitome of the tortured artist who was perpetually misunderstood by family and friends--the mad intellect often derailed by circumstances of his own making.
ALBERT EINSTEIN The life behind the equations is as fascinating and baffling as the formulas themselves. From his work as patent office clerk to the honored Princeton University professor, from his marriages to the tangled relationships with his children and grandchildren, Einstein’s personal story is fascinating, all the more so when juxtaposed with his work as the “greatest mind of his age.”
TENNESSEE WILLIAMS Williams, along with his contemporaries Eugene O'Neill and Arthur Miller, is considered among the three foremost playwrights of 20th-century American drama. After years of obscurity, at age 33 he became suddenly famous with the success of The Glass Menagerie (1944), a play that closely reflected his own unhappy family background. It was the first of a string of successes, including A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), and The Night of the Iguana (1961). With his later work, he attempted a new style that didn’t appeal as widely to audiences--though these plays are now recognized as the output of a masterful playwright. A Streetcar Named Desire is often numbered on short lists of the finest American plays of the 20th century alongside Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Much of Williams' most acclaimed work has been adapted for the cinema. He also wrote short stories, poetry, essays, and a volume of memoirs.
FOUNDING WRITERS:a. THE GENTLEMEN This presentation focuses on seven of America’s earliest writers, men whose work helped to forge opinions and establish how the world—and ourselves—saw the colonies and the fledgling nation. John Smith, William Bradford, Edward Taylor, Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Phillip Freneau represent the broad range of literature written between 1600 and 1800.b. THE LADIES For this presentation, it’s the ladies who speak: Seven of America’s earliest female writers whose letters, poems, journals, and fiction give us a picture of what Colonial and Revolutionary America was all about. Anne Bradstreet, Mary Rowlandson, Sarah Kemble Knight, Sarah Morton, Ann Bleecker, Judith Murray, and Phillis Wheatley represent the views of American women from 1600—1800.
PROFILE IN COURAGE: RUTH BADER GINSBURG: Born and raised in Brooklyn, Ginsburg was a brilliant jurist who spent much of her legal career as an advocate for gender equality and women's rights, winning many arguments before the Supreme Court. As a member of the Court, Ginsburg received attention in American popular culture for her passionate dissents in numerous cases, widely seen as reflecting liberal views of the law. She was dubbed "The Notorious R.B.G.", and she later embraced the moniker. By the time she died in September of 2020, she was truly a household name. This program reflects on her life and on several of the landmark cases she was involved with and is meant to be an homage to one of the great judges of the past century.
PORTRAIT MAKING: JOHN SINGER SARGENT: An American who spent most of his life in Europe, a portraitist who painted landscapes, a family man who never married, and an accomplished pianist who often entertained his sitters, John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) was one of the most influential portrait painters of his time, but he is also an enigma. Despite his huge body of work--900 oil paintings, more than 2,000 watercolors and a vast number of sketches and charcoal drawings--we know little about Sargent the man. Truly international, he was acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic, and was close friends with many of the leading artists, writers, actors, and musicians of his generation. CHANGING YOUR PERSPECTIVE: FIVE BOOKS If you’re looking for a “meaningful” book to read, here are five prime suggestions: Ray Bradbury’s FAHRENHEIT 451, Toni Morrison’s BELOVED, Yasunari Kawabata’s SNOW COUNTRY, Carl Sagan’s COSMOS, and Walt Whitman’s LEAVES OF GRASS. This program gives a brief overlook of each author and the principal ideas of each book--ideas that are intended to challenge our preconceived notions and inspire our “better angels.” There will be time at the end to hear some of your “important” books. What is your most meaningful book?
CHANGING YOUR PERSPECTIVE: VERNE AND WELLS From the 1860s until the mid-20th century, first the novels of Jules Verne, then the novels of Herbert George Wells, sparked the imaginations of untold millions of readers. Through adventure, romance, and science, Verne and Wells sought to entertain and challenge readers. This program looks at the lives of each writer and then focuses on five seminal works and their often trail-blazing ideas and themes that continue to inspire writers and scientists: TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, THE TIME MACHINE, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, and FIRST MEN IN THE MOON. What novel by Verne or Wells has sparked your imagination?
CHANGING YOUR PERSEPCTIVE: FIVE WOMEN Over many years, high school and college literature classes and “Best Books” lists were dominated by male writers. This program looks at five remarkable women who have made deep inroads into the realm of fantasy and science fiction. We’ll explore each author’s life and then delve into the primary themes of these often mind-bending, mind-expanding books: Mary Shelley’s THE LAST MAN, Octavia Butler’s KINDRED, Ursula LeGuin’s THE LATHE OF HEAVEN, Margaret Atwood’s ORYX AND CRAKE, and N. K. Jemisin’s HOW LONG TIL BLACK FUTURE MONTH? These are books that test us, inspire us, warn us, and unsettle us in often unforeseen ways. What women writers have altered your perspectives?