Archive for Then & Now
In 1936 African American sprinter Jesse Owens amazed the world by breaking Olympic records and winning four gold medals in Berlin, the headquarters of Hitler's Nazi regime. However, in classic Olympic fashion, Owens became known not only for his athletic triumphs, but for his epic embrace with Aryan German competitor Luz Long and for the social barriers he broke down in the face of Hitler's Nazi regime. Rather than protesting "Hitler's Games," Owens used his position in the spotlight to display the greatness and compassion that can be achieved outside of the political and cultural constraints of society.
While hitchhiking across the United States in 1940, popular folk singer Woody Guthrie heard Irving Berlin's God Bless America on the radio repeatedly, which describes the "land that I love," complete with mountains, prairies and "oceans, white with foam." With traditional lyrics that tell Americans to "swear allegiance to a land that's free" and to "all be grateful for a land so fair", the patriotic song harshly juxtaposed the economic inequalities that Guthrie was witnessing in the aftermath of the Great Depression. In response, Guthrie wrote This Land is Your Land, claiming repeatedly "this land was made for you and me."
On November 18th, 2011, an Amish teenager in the farmlands of south-central Kentucky died after an SUV accidentally struck his horse-drawn buggy from behind. The buggy did not have an orange reflective safety triangle, which is mandated by Kentucky state law for any slow moving vehicle.
Walter J. Lord, a native of Irving, Texas, who will soon be celebrating his 82nd birthday, recently submitted to the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE "Share Your Story" feature. In response to the question "Who is the Greatest Civil War General?" he attached a scanned image of a yellowed piece of paper with Appomattox Court House, Va printed across the top and an official looking seal on the left. "What can you tell me about this pass?" Lord wrote. "Is it real?"
While viewing a photography exhibit at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts last April, I came upon a photograph of a dilapidated building with a faded sign that read "Young's Grocery and Meat Market." Although the building didn't look like anything unique to a ghost town, it was the plaque next to the print that shed light on the disturbing past of the building: The former Bryant's Grocery, Money, Mississippi, June 1994.
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.