Archive for Behind the Headlines
Early this morning the American Space Shuttle program ended. When the Atlantis shuttle landed at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, it brought to a close 30 years of American innovation and leadership in space exploration. When I look back on the Space program, one particular initiative comes to mind -- the Apollo program. Apollo is known for its many success and failures, particularly Apollo 1 and Apollo 13 but it was Apollo 8 that instilled faith that the United States might actually reach the moon.
Heavy snow and rain this past winter and spring have led to massive flooding of the Mississippi River Valley in 2011, devastating populated areas along the river's path and causing millions of dollars in damage. Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee are just a few states that have been affected by the flooding, displacing thousands of people across the South and Midwest. Over the past several weeks, the Army Corps of Engineers has destroyed levees along the Mississippi River to direct excess water away from more densely populated areas and into flood lands.
Late on Friday evening, June 24, 2011, the State Senate of New York passed the Marriage Equality Bill, granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the Empire State. The most populous state to legalize same-sex marriage, New York joins Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, and Washington D.C.
Passage of the bill gave New Yorkers something new to cheer about during their 42nd Annual Gay Pride Parade on Sunday. An estimated 6,000 people from the LGBT community along with their supporters celebrated as floats rode by, one holding Governor Andrew Cuomo, signer of the landmark legislation. "Cuomo was the parade's rock star, eliciting loud cheers and shrieks as he made his way down Fifth Avenue, " the San Francisco Chronicle reported. "The roar became almost deafening as the parade turned onto the narrow Christopher Street." Christopher Street, home of the Stonewall Inn and site of the Stonewall Riots, has remained a cradle for the LGBT community of New York since the 1960s.
On June 14, the National Assessment of Educational Progress released a study that claimed only 9% of fourth graders were able to both identify Abraham Lincoln and give two reasons why he was significant to American history.
The results of the study have prompted a barrage of criticism for the American educational system, yet many are quick to point out that, historically speaking, history has always been students’ worst subject. NPR’s All Things Considered ran a story on June 19 that pointed out that on a similar test in 1943, only 22% of students could answer the same question about Lincoln. NPR said that students “face rote textbooks and a system dominated by multiple-choice testing that encourages ‘teaching to the test’ instead of deeper, contextual learning.”
In 1961, 436 Freedom Riders risked their lives in the name of equality. In the case of the Freedom Riders, that equality came in the form of desegregated buses, trains and travel facilities in the Deep South. Each one of them demonstrated unimaginable courage and dignity and all deserve deep gratitude and recognition. But in the beginning, there were just 13 Riders -- 13 people who didn't know what they would face, didn't know if the movement would gain any traction, and didn't know if they'd even live to see the results. June 6 marked the passing of one of those original 13 Freedom Riders, the Reverend Benjamin Elton Cox, who died at the age of 79.
On May 16, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE will premiere Freedom Riders, a film about the 436 Americans who risked their lives by deliberately violating Jim Crow laws in the Deep South in the summer of 1961.
This Wednesday, May 4, Oprah Winfrey will dedicate her entire program to the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides. The Oprah episode will highlight clips from the film as well as selections of content from the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Freedom Riders website.