Best, George — John Brown and Harper’s Ferry

Harper’s Ferry National Park is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in the easternmost corner of what is now West Virginia. This tiny national park, just over a square mile in size, is the location of the 1859 raid led by John Brown, a white abolitionist.  Outraged by the sustained existence of slavery in southern United States, Brown and his armed supporters snuck across the river at night attempting to take over of the government arsenal, arm the nearby enslaved people and foment a revolt.  Brown’s intended efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and resulted in his conviction for treason and death by hanging.  Nonetheless he foreshadowed the growing discontent of slavery that would lead to the civil war.

I joined Ranger George Best on October 12, 2017, for a tour and stories, which began at the 1848 now defunct armory amid background sounds of the rivers, railroads and other machinery  He begins with a description of the Foundry, Harper’s Ferry largest building.

The books George Best recommends are: “A Walker’s Guide to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia,” by Dave Gilbert, “The Strange Story of Harper’s Ferry” by Joseph Berry, and “Harpers Ferry Under Fire” by Dennis Fryer.  

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A Visit with Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Frederick Douglass

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass were good friends from the mid 19th century to the late 19th century, and were active leaders in the fight for the rights of women and blacks throughout their lives.  From time to time they got together to visit and talk about America, as they knew it. In this archive edition of Radio Curious recorded in May 1998, I met with Chautauqua scholars Sally Roesch Wagner and Charles Pace who portrayed Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass. We began our conversation when I asked them each to tell us what it was like to be an American during their life time.

The book Frederick Douglass recommends is, “The Columbian Orator: Containing a Variety of Original and Selected Pieces Together With Rules, Which Are Calculated to Improve Youth and Others, in the Ornamental and Using Art of Eloquence” by Caleb Bingham. The book Charles Pace recommends is, “W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868 to 1919,” by David Levering Lewis.

The book Elizabeth Cady Stanton recommends is, “The Woman’s Bible” edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The book Sally Wagner recommends is, “The Homesteader: A Novel,” by Oscar Micheaux. 

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Lung, Robin– Finding Kukan: A Hidden Glimpse into Wartime China

An artifact of Chinese-American heritage in the form of a long-lost film and the Asian American woman responsible for this film’s creation is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious.

Our guest is documentary filmmaker Robin Lung, who made the film Finding Kukan. Finding Kukan tells the story of Li Ling-Ai, a Chinese-American woman who hired Rey Scott, an American photojournalist, to travel to China and capture the life of people in that war-torn country, including the massive bombing of the wartime capital. Their landmark film, Kukan, received one of the first Academy Awards for a feature documentary in 1942. Lung’s film, Finding Kukan, asks why we haven’t heard of Li Ling-Ai, and why all copies of her film Kukan seem to have disappeared.

This program was recorded on May 6, 2017, when she was in Southern California, right after Finding Kukan received the Audience Award at the 2017 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

You may listen to the full interview here.

The book which Robin Lung recommends is also a movie, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly.

Wilkerson, Isabel – America’s Great Migration, Part 2 (Archive)

In PART TWO of our conversation with Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” we continue our discussion of the migration of almost six million black American citizens from the south to northern and western cities between the years of 1915 and 1970. Her book tells the untold experiences of the African-Americans who fled the south over three generations.

Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people for her book. She is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and is a recipient of the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Her parents were part of the great migration, journeying from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington D.C.

In part one, she discussed what she called the “biggest untold story of the 20th century.” In part two, recorded from her home near Atlanta, Georgia, on September 28, 2012, Isabel Wilkerson describes the inspiration behind her narrative non-fiction story.

You can listen to the interview here:

Early, Steve: Remaking an American City

The power and success of local political action to meet the needs of a community is revealed in the book “Refinery Town:  Big Oil, Big Money and the Remaking of an American City.”

Written by Steve Early, with a Forward by Senator Bernie Sanders, “Refinery Town” describes the political change in Richmond, California, that began in 2000. Richmond was a largely working-class city of 110,000 people, with one of the highest per capita homicide rates, and twice the average jobless rate. Early tells the story of the community organizing that successfully raised the minimum wage, challenged evictions and home foreclosures, and sought fair taxation of Big Oil. In this case, the Big Oil is the Chevron Oil Company, which owns and operates a Richmond refinery, one of the largest oil refineries in California.

Steve Early, formerly a community organizer, activist, lawyer, and union representative, and now the author of “Refinery Town,” spoke with Radio Curious by phone, from his home in Richmond. We began our conversation as he described Richmond’s transformation.

You can listen to the interview here.

The books Steve Early recommends are: “Detroit: An American Autopsy,” by Charlie LeDuff; “Teardown: Memoir of A Vanishing City,” by Gordon Young; and “Home Town,” by Tracy Kidder. This program was recorded on February 20, 2017

Patterson, Dr. Victoria: It Does Not Require Many Words to Speak the Truth

 

This week, we continue our discussion with ethnologist Dr. Victoria Patterson. We talk about how the United States treated the Native people of North America initially, and later during the westward expansion. We also discuss the consequences to the Native people when they entered into written treaties with the United States. Not having a written language, they relied on the carefully chosen words they spoke during the treaty negotiations and the words spoken by the representatives of the United States.

Dr. Victoria Patterson is an Ethnologist who has studied the Native people of what is now the United States for the past 40 years.  She lives and works in Ukiah, California. I invite you to listen to the 1999 two-part series with Dr. Patterson about the life of the Pomo People of northwestern California prior to contact with Europeans, and what occurred in the ten years thereafter.

We began this interview with her elaborating on and putting into context the statement of Chief Joseph: “It Does Not Require Many Words to Speak the Truth.”

You can listen to our discussion here.

The book Victoria Patterson recommends is “The Best American Travel Writing 2016,” by Bill Bryson.

This program was recorded on January 23, 2017.

Abraham Lincoln & James Getty – The 16th President

In 1995, James A. Getty, who appears in public as Abraham Lincoln, visited Ukiah, California and joined us in the studios of Radio Curious. In talking with President Lincoln about his life, the events of his time and about his presidency, the conversation focused upon the economics of the mid-19th century. I asked Mr. Lincoln to give us his opinion about the effect that Eli Whitney’s cotton gin had on the spread of slavery.

Abraham Lincoln and James Getty recommend “Malice Toward None,” by Steven Oats.

Originally Broadcast: March 7, 1996

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Mello, Mark — Reflections on The Underground Railroad—What now? 

Imagine growing up in a tightly bound community of no more than 60 people who worked from dawn to dusk and who were subjected to unimaginable indignities and torture.   Why? Because they were African Americans born into slavery in the United States prior in the first half of the 19th century.  They hoped and dreamed of freedom, freedom to an unknown place; that freedom served as a guide for those who risked their lives to flee the bondage.

Freedom for some was found in the seaport town of New Bedford, Massachusetts, where escaped former slaves were welcome.  New Bedford was the richest city in the world in the 1850s, a city run by Quakers and other abolitionists, who created a safe haven for black people from the south.  The 1,000 plus men and women who found refuge in New Bedford were more than enough to hide the newcomers as they arrived.  Often the men found work on the whaling ships that ventured forth around the world from the New Bedford harbor, which is the topic of a two-part Radio Curious program.

In this series about New Bedford as a safe haven on the Underground Railroad, we explore the lives of freedom seeking ex-slaves who safely made the journey to the south east corner of Massachusetts. In part one, we discuss how Quakers made the town an abolitionist safe haven.  In this, the second of a two part program, we continue our visit with National Park Ranger Mark Mello.  Part of Ranger Mello’s work is that of a tour guide interpreting the history and stories of pre-civil war New Bedford.  His interpretations focus on the bravery and dedication of New Bedford residents at that time.

I joined Mark Mello’s walking tour about the Underground Railroad’s connection to New Bedford in the Old Town Section on September 2, 2016.   This edition of Radio Curious begins with Ranger Mello’s story of Nathan and Polly Johnson, a free black couple who lived and worked there–he as a pharmacist and she a confectionary. 

The books Mark Mello recommends are “Fugitive’s Gibraltar: Escaping Slaves and Abolitionism in New Bedford, Massachusetts,” by Kathryn Grover;  “Whale Hunt,” by Nelson Cole Haley; and “Leviathan,” by Philip Hoare.

Click here to listen or on the media player below.

Mello, Mark — The Underground Railroad in New Bedford, Massachusetts

New Bedford, Massachusetts, a sea port located in the southeast corner of Massachusetts, at the base of Cape Cod, is the locale of our program.  Early in New Bedford’s history a group of Quakers from Boston moved there and the town became a safe haven for formerly enslaved African-Americans, who escaped bondage. 

The stories of those who safely arrived in New Bedford on the Underground Railroad are presented at the 34 acre New Bedford National Historical Park in the Old Town section of New Bedford. 

This two part series on the New Bedford Underground Railroad with National Park Ranger Mark Mello was recorded on September 2, 2016, with the sound of wind and street traffic in the background.  Part one begins with a historical perspective of the Underground Railroad and the way in which New Bedford, Massachusetts was a safe haven for former slaves.  

The books Mark Mello recommends are “Fugitive’s Gibraltar: Escaping Slaves and Abolitionism in New Bedford, Massachusetts,” by Kathryn Grover;  “Whale Hunt,” by Nelson Cole Haley; and “Leviathan,” by Philip Hoare. 

Click here to listen or on the media player below.

Griffin, Paul Dr. — Seeds of Racism

Racism, as a part of the American religious culture, can be traced to the religious concepts of some of the earliest European settlers in North America. Professor Paul R. Griffin explores these roots in his book, “Seeds of Racism in the Soul of America,” linking the concepts in the Puritan belief system to long lasting racist effects. He argues that racism is itself a religion in the United States and is closely related to America Christianity. He claims that efforts to erase racism have failed because they have concentrated on its visible manifestations rather than its ideological character.

The book Dr. Paul Griffin recommends is “The Rage of A Privileged Class,” by Ellis Cose.

Click here to listen or on the media player below.