Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Edward R. Murrow" from VOA.

I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today, we tell the story of Edward R. Murrow, a famous radio and television broadcaster. He helped create and develop modern news broadcasting.


Egbert Roscoe Murrow was born in nineteen-oh-eight in the state of North Carolina. His parents lived on a farm in an area called Polecat Creek. The Murrows were members of the Quakers, a religious group known for its humanitarian activities and opposition to war. When he was a boy, the Murrow family moved across the country. They settled in the western state of Washington, near the border with Canada.

In college, Egbert Murrow changed his name to Edward. He completed his college education at Washington State College in nineteen thirty. Edward was active in college politics. He served as president of the National Student Federation. He organized debates and other events for the student organization. He also traveled throughout the United States and Europe.

Ed Murrow joined the Institute of International Education in nineteen thirty-two. He served as assistant director of the group. During this period, he married a young woman he had met at a student conference. Her name was Janet Brewster. They later had one child, a son.

Edward R. Murrow accepted a job with the Columbia Broadcasting System in nineteen thirty-five. His job was to get famous people to speak on CBS radio programs. Two years later, Murrow was named director of the CBS European office and moved to London, England. His job was to get European officials and experts to provide comments for CBS broadcasts. Murrow was twenty-nine years old and the company's only representative in Europe.

The situation in Europe was becoming tense. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party had come to power in Germany. Up until that time, radio news in the United States was mostly opinions, or commentary. CBS officials were concerned about permitting news broadcasts by reporters.

Murrow offered a job to William L. Shirer, a newspaper reporter. The two men wanted to do something different. They wanted to present radio reports about what they had seen and heard.

In March, nineteen thirty-eight, the two men made radio broadcasting history. They produced a thirty-minute broadcast to report on the seizure of Austria by Nazi Germany. That meant getting people in Berlin and other European capitals to comment on the news story.

Murrow traveled to Vienna to report on Nazi forces entering the Austrian capital. The broadcast also included reports from London, Berlin, Paris, France and Rome, Italy. It was a huge success.


Murrow returned to London and continued his broadcasts as World War Two started. He opened the reports with the words, "This is London." Murrow was an excellent reporter who chose his words with great skill. His reports seemed to bring the war home to Americans.

For example, he described the Battle of Britain as he saw and experienced it. In some of his reports, listeners could hear the sound of bomb explosions or air raid warnings. Once, Murrow broadcast from the top of a building and described what he saw. Here is part of one report from August thirty-first, nineteen thirty-nine. Murrow describes plans by British officials to move children away from coastal areas:


"School children will be taken by their teachers to homes in safer districts where they will be housed by people who have already offered to receive them and look after them. All parents of school children are strongly urged to let their children go. Parents will be told where their children are as soon as they reach their new homes."

Murrow organized a team of reporters whose names would become well known to American listeners. They included Charles Collingwood, Robert Trout, Eric Severeid, and Howard K. Smith. The team had eleven members. They were called "the Murrow boys." They reported news from the major European capitals. Their reports were heard on the CBS radio program "World News Roundup." These men established the traditions of broadcast journalism.

Most of the reporters had worked for newspapers or magazines. They had learned to work quickly and clearly, much needed qualities in radio. The Murrow boys were to have a powerful effect on American broadcasting for years to come.

Edward R. Murrow took his listeners places they had never been. He let them experience things they could not imagine. For example, after World War Two, he was among the first Allied reporters to visit the Buchenwald prison camp operated by the Nazis in Germany during the war. This is how he described the prisoners there:


"As we walked into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others, they must have been over sixty, were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it. In another part of the camp, they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only six. One rolled up his sleeve and showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm."


Murrow was famous when he returned home to the United States after the war. His work in Europe guaranteed him a place in the history of news reporting. He was appointed vice president of News at CBS in nineteen forty-six. However, he resigned from the position the following year and returned to broadcasting.

Murrow recorded a series of record albums with a producer, Fred Friendly. The series was called "I Can Hear It Now." These programs presented historical events through recordings of speeches and news broadcasts. Later, Murrow and Friendly developed a similar weekly radio show. It was called "Hear It Now."

In the United States, the rise of television in the nineteen fifties ended the period called the Golden Age of Radio Broadcasting. Most of the popular shows disappeared from radio. More and more people started watching television. So Ed Murrow and his boys moved to television. He joined with Fred Friendly to create the series "See It Now." This show lasted from nineteen fifty-one to nineteen fifty-eight. The first "See It Now" showed the first television pictures broadcast from both coasts. It showed the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.

In one program, "See It Now" examined accusations made by Senator Joseph McCarthy. He had accused government officials of being supporters or members of the Communist Party. The program showed that Senator McCarthy had no real evidence for the accusations. Some people say the program helped to end the senator's hunt for Communists. Experts say the program was important in the history of television.

Other broadcasts on "See It Now" concerned important issues of race, war and government dishonesty.

Murrow also started another television show called "Person to Person." He spoke with famous people in their homes. One program visited Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The show also visited actress Marilyn Monroe, actor Marlon Brando and Senator John F. Kennedy.

Ed Murrow also produced a number of special investigative programs for CBS. One such program was called "Harvest of Shame." It showed the hard lives and poor living conditions of farm workers who move from place to place. Some people say this broadcast was so powerful that it influenced American lawmakers to pass measures to protect these migrant workers.

Murrow's reporting and choice of subjects often led to disputes with his supervisors at CBS. After John F.Kennedy was elected president, he asked the newsman to lead the United States Information Agency. Murrow served as the agency's director from nineteen sixty-one to nineteen sixty-four. Then he retired from the job. Murrow was sick with lung cancer. He had smoked cigarettes for much of his life. He died in nineteen sixty-five at his farm in Pawling, New York. He was fifty-seven years old.

By the time he died, Murrow had won all of the top awards given to reporters. He also received honors from five colleges. President Lyndon Johnson gave him the Medal of Freedom. That is the highest honor a president can give to an American citizen.

Today, Edward R. Murrow is remembered for his influence on broadcasting and the quality of his reporting. Former CBS chairman William Paley once said Murrow was a man made for his time and work. Paley called him a student, a thinker and, at heart, a poet of mankind. As a result, he said, Murrow was a great reporter.


This program was written by George Grow. Lawan Davis was our producer. I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"The Great Depression of the 1930s" from VOA.

One of many "Hoovervilles" during the Great Depression"

THE MAKING OF A NATION – a program in Special English by the Voice of America.

The stock market crash of 1929 marked the beginning of the worst economic crisis in American history. Millions of people lost their jobs. Thousands lost their homes. During the next several years, a large part of the richest nation on earth learned what it meant to be poor.

Hard times found their way into every area, group, and job. Workers struggled as factories closed. Farmers, hit with falling prices and natural disasters, were forced to give up their farms. Businessmen lost their stores and sometimes their homes. It was a severe economic crisis -- a depression.

Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, one of America's greatest writers, described the depression this way: "It was a terrible, troubled time. I can't think of any ten years in history when so much happened in so many directions. Violent change took place. Our country was shaped, our lives changed, our government rebuilt." Said John Steinbeck: "When the stock market fell, the factories, mines, and steelworks closed. And then no one could buy anything. Not even food."

An unemployed auto worker in the manufacturing city of Detroit described the situation this way:

"Before daylight, we were on the way to the Chevrolet factory to look for work. The police were already there, waving us away from the office. They were saying, 'Nothing doing! No jobs! No jobs!' So now we were walking slowly through the falling snow to the employment office for the Dodge auto company. A big, well-fed man in a heavy overcoat stood at the door. 'No! No!' he said. There was no work."

One Texas farmer lost his farm and moved his family to California to look for work. "We can't send the children to school," he said, "because they have no clothes."

The economic crisis began with the stock market crash in October, 1929. For the first year, the economy fell very slowly. But it dropped sharply in 1931 and 1932. And by the end of 1932, the economy collapsed almost completely.

The gross national product is the total of all goods and services produced. During the three years following the stock market crash, the American gross national product dropped by almost half. The wealth of the average American dropped to a level lower than it had been twenty-five years earlier.

All the gains of the 1920s were washed away.

Unemployment rose sharply. The number of workers looking for a job jumped from three percent to more than twenty-five percent in just four years. One of every three or four workers was looking for a job in 1932.

Those employment numbers did not include farmers. The men and women who grew the nation's food suffered terribly during the Great Depression.

This was especially true in the southwestern states of Oklahoma and Texas. Farmers there were losing money because of falling prices for their crops. Then natural disaster struck. Year after year, little or no rain fell. The ground dried up. And then the wind blew away the earth in huge clouds of dust.

"All that dust made some of the farmers leave," one Oklahoma farmer remembered later. "But my family stayed. We fought to live. Despite all the dust and the wind, we were planting seeds. But we got no crops. We had five crop failures in five years."

Falling production. Rising unemployment. Men begging in the streets. But there was more to the Great Depression. At that time, the federal government did not guarantee the money that people put in banks. When people could not repay loans, banks began to close.

In 1929, six hundred fifty-nine banks with total holdings of two hundred million dollars went out of business. The next year, two times that number failed. And the year after that, almost twice that number of banks went out of business. Millions of persons lost all their savings. They had no money left.

The depression caused serious public health problems. Hospitals across the country were filled with sick people whose main illness was a lack of food. The health department in New York City found that one of every five of the city's children did not get enough food. Ninety-nine percent of the children attending a school in a coal-mining area reportedly were underweight. In some places, people died of hunger.

The quality of housing also fell. Families were forced to crowd into small houses or apartments to share costs. Many people had no homes at all. They slept on public streets, buses, or trains. One official in Chicago reported in 1931 that several hundred women without homes were sleeping in city parks. In a number of cities, people without homes built their houses from whatever materials they could find. They used empty boxes or pieces of metal to build shelters in open areas.

People called these areas of little temporary houses "Hoovervilles." They blamed President Hoover for their situation. So, too, did the men forced to sleep in public parks at night. They covered themselves with pieces of paper. And they called the paper "Hoover blankets." People without money in their pants called their empty pockets "Hoover flags."

People blamed President Hoover because they thought he was not doing enough to help them. Hoover did take several actions to try to improve the economy. But he resisted proposals for the federal government to provide aid in a major way. And he refused to let the government spend more money than it earned.

Hoover told the nation: "Economic depression cannot be cured by legislative action or executive decision."

Many conservative Americans agreed with him. But not the millions of Americans who were hungry and tired of looking for a job. They accused Hoover of not caring about the common citizen. One congressman from Alabama said: "In the White House, we have a man more interested in the money of the rich than in the stomachs of the poor."

On and on the Great Depression continued. Of course, some Americans were lucky. They kept their jobs. And they had enough money to enjoy the lower prices of most goods. Many people shared their earnings with friends in need.

"We joined our money when we had some," remembered John Steinbeck. "It seems strange to say that we rarely had a job," Steinbeck wrote years later. "There just weren't any jobs. But we didn't have to steal much. Farmers and fruit growers in the nearby countryside could not sell their crops. They gave us all the food and fruit we could carry home.

Other Americans reacted to the crisis by leading protests against the economic policies of the Hoover administration. In 1932, a large group of former soldiers gathered in Washington to demand help. More than eight-thousand of them built the nation's largest Hooverville near the White House. Federal troops finally removed them by force and burned their little shelters.

Next week, we will look at how the Great Depression of the 1930s affected other countries.


You have been listening to THE MAKING OF A NATION -- a program in Special English by the Voice of America. Your narrators have been Harry Monroe and Warren Scheer. Our program was written by David Jarmul. The Voice of America invites you to listen again next week to THE MAKING OF A NATION.


1. The event that marked the beginning of the Great Depression in October 1929 was ___________________ .

a: World War I
b: the stock market crash of '29
c: World War II
d: The French Revolution
2. When unemployed workers went to the auto factories in Detroit, ______________________ .
a: the police stopped them from entering
b: the company gave them a parade
c: they all got new jobs
d: they got unemployment checks
3. The depression caused _______________________________ .
a: terrible suffering among farmers
b: the country to become great again
c: tsunamis and earthquakes
d: floods
4. During the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover __________________________ .
a: ordered the government to create food banks to feed hungry Americans
b: donated his salary to the Red Cross
c: went on a hunger strike in sympathy with hungry Americans
d: said the government could not do anything about fixing the country’s economic problems
5. By 1932, the unemployment rate in the United States was____________ .
a: no longer a problem
b: more than 25%
c: the lowest in U.S. history
d: something no one thought about any more
6. During the Great Depression, a group of eight thousand veterans of World War I _______________________ .
a: emigrated to Australia
b: protected the White House against protesters
c: set up a huge homeless camp in Washington, D.C.
d: made a movie about their experiences in Europe during the war
7. During the Great Depression, many people from Oklahoma left their homes for other states _____________________________ .
a: because of a terrible drought
b: because the government told them to leave
c: because there were no McDonald’s restaurants in the state
d: because they were tired of all the rain
8. In the early 1930’s people called homeless camps _______________________ .
a: Ritz Hotels
b: Hoovervilles
c: Devil’s Kitchens
d: the best thing President Hoover did for them
9. During the Great Depression,
a: many people had health problems because they were hungry
b: some farmers allowed hungry people to take their crops for free
c: some Americans died of starvation
d: all of the above
10. Another appropriate name for this story might be _________________ .
a: The Depression: A Nation Suffers
b: President Hoover Rescues America from the Great Depression
c: California, Here I Come
d: We Won’t Back Down

This is part one of a six part series about The Great Depression from PBS. (Public Broadcasting System) It shows the "blue skies" of 1928 leading up to the crash of '29.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Cleopatra: A Great Egyptian Ruler" from Voice of America.

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: I’m Christopher Cruise.

FAITH LAPIDUS: And I’m Faith Lapidus with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the life of one of the most famous and powerful women in history. She was a goddess, a queen, and a skilled diplomat and negotiator. She was a great politician who knew how to show off her and her country’s power and influence.

At the height of her rule more than two thousand years ago, she controlled Egypt and other lands including most of the eastern Mediterranean coast.

She was also one of the richest people in the world. She was known for her striking personality, her sharp intelligence and her alliances with the two most powerful men of her time. Her name was Cleopatra.


CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Many people remember Cleopatra as the beautiful and fiery woman played by Elizabeth Taylor in the nineteen sixty-three movie “Cleopatra.”

ELIZABETH TAYLOR (AS CLEOPATRA): “Do as you say, literally? As if I was something you had conquered?”

REX HARRISION (AS CAESAR): “If I choose to regard you as such.”

ELIZABETH TAYLOR: “Am I to understand then that you feel free to do with me whatever you want, whenever you want?”

REX HARRISON: “Yes, I want that understood.”

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: She is also the subject of one of William Shakespeare’s great tragic plays, “Antony and Cleopatra.” Shakespeare describes Cleopatra with these lines:

“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety; other women cloy the appetites they feed, but she makes hungry where most she satisfies.”

FAITH LAPIDUS: The story of Cleopatra has influenced countless historians, painters, writers and filmmakers. But much of the story of her life is based on descriptions that are not true. She is often described as an evil and sexy beauty who liked to take control of men.

To learn the truth about this famous ruler requires separating fact from centuries of storytelling. Most historical documents describing her life were written long after she had died. They were written by historians who never knew her and who were loyal to her enemies. Remembering this famous woman as an evil beauty discredits her role as a wise and intelligent ruler who lived during an important period in history.


CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Cleopatra the Seventh was born over two thousand years ago in sixty-nine B.C., or sixty-nine years before the birth of Christ. Her ancestors came from a long line of rulers that began with Ptolemy the First and ended with Cleopatra. This family is known as the Ptolemies. Although Cleopatra ruled Egypt, she was not Egyptian. She was Macedonian Greek. Her first language was Greek, but historians say she spoke eight others including Hebrew, Latin, Parthian and Egyptian.

Cleopatra became queen of Egypt at the age of eighteen. Egyptian tradition required that a female rule alongside a male family member. She ruled jointly, first with her younger brother, Ptolemy the Thirteenth. She was also married to him. After his death, Cleopatra ruled with her other brother Ptolemy the Fourteenth. Later she ordered that he be killed.

FAITH LAPIDUS: The Ptolemies were famous for marrying within their family. They were also well known for their murderous aims and often plotted to kill one another to gain power. Cleopatra’s sister Arsinoe attempted to have herself declared queen of Egypt. So Cleopatra ordered that her sister be killed. Cleopatra was not interested in sharing power and was not going to risk any threats from her family members.

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: One of Cleopatra’s main concerns throughout her reign was Egypt’s relationship with the powerful Roman Republic. The Romans had taken control of most of Europe and parts of North Africa.

Cleopatra had good reason to be concerned that Rome would try to take over Egypt. She worked hard to create strong alliances with Rome’s leaders. She offered them her financial support and resources such as grain, warships and soldiers. Egypt was an extremely rich country, and Rome began to depend on its wealth. Throughout her more than twenty years as ruler, she kept Egypt allied with, but independent from, Rome.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Starting in the year forty-eight B.C., Cleopatra allied herself with the Roman general and statesman Julius Caesar. She had been exiled by her brother Ptolemy the Thirteenth and was fighting to take back power. Rome was going through a period of civil war. Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar were fighting each other for control of Rome.

After Pompey was murdered, Cleopatra decided it was important to make friends with Caesar for her safety and that of her country. Tensions were high in Egypt’s main city, Alexandria. She had a servant secretly bring her into Caesar’s home while hidden in a cloth bag.

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Cleopatra supported Caesar during fighting between the Egyptian supporters of Ptolemy the Thirteenth and the Roman military. And upon his victory, Caesar gave control of Egypt back to Cleopatra. The queen would soon give birth to Caesar’s child, a boy named Caesarion. Cleopatra knew this child would deepen ties between Rome and Egypt.

Caesar and Cleopatra continued their relationship although he was often travelling on military campaigns. She visited him twice in Rome. But many Romans did not like that a queen from the East was interfering in Roman affairs. And, some Romans felt Caesar was becoming too powerful. In forty-four B.C., Caesar was murdered by a group of Roman senators.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Rome was later controlled by three rulers -- a triumvirate. The rulers were Octavian, Marcus Lepidus, and Mark Antony. Cleopatra would ally herself with Mark Antony. They would also become lovers. She had three children with him. But their alliance would come at a huge cost.


CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Stacy Schiff is an award-winning writer who published a book on Cleopatra in two thousand ten. It is called “Cleopatra: A Life.” Ms. Schiff’s aim is to separate fact from fiction in telling Cleopatra’s story. She says Cleopatra was smart and powerful. She has been misrepresented by history as a liar and someone who used men for her own gain. Ms. Schiff’s book helps bring to life not only this famous queen, but also the richness of ancient Egyptian culture and society.

Her description of Alexandria helps explain why the city was one of the most famous and beautiful in the world. Alexandria was a capitol for learning and culture. Its library was the largest and greatest in the ancient world.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Cleopatra would have been a part of this learned environment. She grew up studying and memorizing literary works which taught about history, religion and philosophy.

She also studied public speaking, math, music, astronomy and geometry. She used this knowledge in her many duties as queen. She organized an army, acted as a judge, controlled the value of the country’s money, secured Egypt’s economy and was a huge supporter of the arts.

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Stacy Schiff also describes how Cleopatra successfully used her image as a powerful queen and goddess to influence others. Ms. Schiff explains that the power of imagery was huge in a world where only some people knew how to read. For example, Cleopatra made herself into a representation of the goddess Isis. Isis was a goddess of motherhood, righteousness and justice.

Ms. Schiff describes how Cleopatra used the power of imagery for her first official meeting with Mark Antony at his base in the town of Tarsus. She arrived in a golden boat with a team of musicians and servants. This had an unforgettable effect on Mark Antony.

The two would remain a couple for the rest of their lives. Mark Antony controlled the eastern part of the Roman Republic. He gave many rich lands to Cleopatra to rule. In return, she helped him pay for his military campaigns.

FAITH LAPIDUS: However, Mark Antony began to spend more and more time in Alexandria with Cleopatra and less time planning his military invasions. People in Rome feared Mark Antony’s growing loyalty to Egypt.

He received increasing criticism from the powerful Roman ruler Octavian. A huge battle between Octavian’s troops and those of Mark Antony and Cleopatra took place at Actium in modern day Greece. Octavian’s forces quickly defeated his enemies.

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Mark Antony’s soldiers deserted him as Octavian’s troops entered Alexandria. Mark Antony soon killed himself, dying in Cleopatra’s arms. Cleopatra killed herself by poison several days later to escape watching her kingdom become a province of Rome. The golden age of ancient Egypt and its rulers ended with her death. But Cleopatra’s timeless story would live on.

FAITH LAPIDUS: This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Faith Lapidus.

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: And I’m Christopher Cruise. Our programs are online with transcripts and MP3 files at You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Harriet Tubman Fought Slavery and Oppression" from VOA.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: I'm Shirley Griffith.

RAY FREEMAN: And I'm Ray Freeman with the Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Every week we tell the story of someone important in the history of the United States. Today we tell about Harriet Tubman, an African American woman who fought slavery and oppression.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Historians say Harriet Tubman was born in the year Eighteen-Twenty. Nobody really knows. In the United States in the Nineteenth Century the birth of slaves was not recorded.

We do know that Harriet Tubman was one of the bravest women ever born in the United States. She helped hundreds of people escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad. This was a system that helped slaves escape from the South to states where slavery was banned.

Because of her work on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman was called Moses. In the Bible, Moses was the leader of the Jewish people enslaved in Egypt. He brought his people out of slavery to the promised land. Harriet Tubman died in Nineteen-Thirteen. All her life, she always tried to improve life for African Americans.


RAY FREEMAN: From a very early age, Harriet knew how slaves suffered. Her parents were slaves. They belonged to Edward Brodas, a farmer in the middle Atlantic state of Maryland. Harriet's parents tried to protect her and their ten other children as much as they could. There was little they could do, however. Slaves were treated like animals. They could be sold at any time. Families often were separated. Slave children were not permitted to act like children. By the time Harriet was three years old, Mister Brodas ordered her to carry notes from him to other farmers. Some of these farmers lived as far as fifteen kilometers away. Harriet was punished if she stopped to rest or play.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: When Harriet was six years old, the Brodas family sent her to work for another family who lived near their farm. While there, Harriet was infected with the disease measles. Even though she was sick, she was forced to place and remove animal traps in an icy river. She was sent home when she became dangerously ill. Harriet's mother took very good care of her. The child survived. Then she was sent to work in the Brodas's house. Her owners never gave her enough to eat. One day she was working in the kitchen. She was looking at a piece of sugar in a silver container when Missus Brodas saw her. Harriet ran away in fear. She was caught and beaten very severely. Her owners decided that Harriet never would make a good worker in the house. She was sent to the fields.

RAY FREEMAN: Harriet's parents were sad. They worked in the fields and they knew how difficult it was to survive the hard work. But working outside made Harriet's body strong. And she began to learn things from the other slaves. These things one day would help her lead her people to freedom. Harriet heard about Nat Turner. He had led an unsuccessful rebellion of slaves. She heard about other slaves who had run away from their cruel owners. She was told that they had traveled by the Underground Railroad. They did not escape by using a special train. Instead of a real train, the Underground Railroad was a series of hiding places, usually in houses of people who opposed slavery. These were secret places that African Americans could stop at as they escaped from the South to the North. As Harriet heard stories of rebellion, she became more of a rebel.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: One day when Harriet was fifteen she was at a local store. A slave owner entered and threatened a young boy who was his slave. At first, the slave refused to move. Then he ran for the door. Harriet moved in front of the young man. The slave owner reached for a heavy weight. He threw it at his slave. He missed. Instead, the heavy metal object hit Harriet in the head. Harriet almost died. Months passed before she could get out of bed. For the rest of her life, she carried the mark of a deep wound on her head. And she suffered from blackouts. She would suddenly lose consciousness as though she had fallen asleep.

RAY FREEMAN: Mister Brodas felt he would never get any good work out of Harriet. So he decided to sell her. Harriet thought of a way to prevent this. Each time she was shown to someone who might buy her, she acted as if she were falling asleep. After a while, Mister Brodas gave up hope of selling Harriet. He sent her back to the fields. She dreamed of freedom while picking vegetables and digging in the fields. In Eighteen Forty-Four, at about age twenty-four, she married a free black man named John Tubman. By now, Harriet was sure she wanted to try to escape. It would be very dangerous. Slaves who were caught often were killed or almost beaten to death. Harriet knew she must wait for just the right time.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Suddenly, in Eighteen-Forty-Nine, the time came. Mister Brodas died. His slaves probably would be sold to cotton farmers further South. The situation there would be even worse. John Tubman tried to make Harriet forget about running away. He was free. Why should he make a dangerous trip with a woman breaking the law? Harriet decided that her marriage to John must end. Harriet heard that she was to be sold immediately. She knew she needed to tell her family that she was leaving. She began to sing, softly at first, then louder. She sang the words, "I'm sorry to leave you...I'm going to the promised land." Her family understood.


RAY FREEMAN: Harriet ran to the home of a white woman who had promised to help. This woman belonged to the Quakers, a religious group which hated slavery. The Quaker woman told her how to reach another home where she could hide. Harriet went from house to house that way on the Underground Railroad. Each place was a little closer to the eastern state of Pennsylvania. Slavery was banned there. Once she was hidden under hay that had been cut from the fields. Another time, she wore men's clothing. Finally, she crossed the border into Pennsylvania. Later, she told a friend, "I felt like I was in heaven."

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Now that Harriet was free, she did not forget the hundreds of other slaves back in Maryland. During the next ten years, she led a much expanded Underground Railroad. She freed her parents, her sister, brothers and other family members. She found a home for her parents in Auburn, New York.

Harriet traveled back and forth eighteen times, helping about three-hundred slaves escape into free territory. She became an expert at hiding from slave hunters. At one time, anyone finding Harriet was promised forty-thousand dollars for catching her -- dead or alive. The people she helped called her Moses. She had rescued them from slavery just as the biblical Moses rescued the Jews.

Harriet found another way to fight slavery after the Civil War began in Eighteen-Sixty-One. Seven southern states decided to separate from the United States, mainly over the issue of slavery. The northern states refused to let the United States of America break apart.

After fighting began, Harriet Tubman went into enemy territory to spy for the North. She also served as a nurse. After four years of bloody fighting, the North won the war.

President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in Eighteen-Sixty-Three. There was no longer any need for Harriet to be Moses.


RAY FREEMAN: After the fighting ended, Harriet Tubman returned to Auburn, New York. She married a man named Nelson Davis. This could have been the beginning of a few quiet years of family life for her. But she kept working. She traveled and gave speeches to raise money for better education for black children. She also worked for women's rights and housing. And she sought help for old men and women who had been slaves. Harriet Tubman died in Nineteen-Thirteen. She was about ninety-three years old. By that time, she was recognized as an American hero. The United States government gave a funeral with military honors for the woman known as Moses.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH:This program was written by Jeri Watson. I'm Shirley Griffith.

RAY FREEMAN: I'm Ray Freeman. Listen again next week at this time for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.


1. Harriet Tubman helped slaves escape to states where slavery was banned. "Banned" means "___________________" .
a: encouraged
b: illegal
c: promoted
d: slowly disappearing

2. Because of her work helping slaves escape to freedom, Harriet Tubman has been compared to the Biblical character ___________ .
a: Jesus
b: David
c: Noah
d: Moses

3. When she was just three years old, Harriet Tubman was made to perform the services of a _______________________ .
a: dishwasher
b: housekeeper
c: messenger
d: gardener

4. The Underground Railroad was _________________ .
a: a subway
b: a series of hiding places for African Americans attempting to escape slavery
c: a train that ran from Alabama to Washington D.C..
d: a system for returning escaped slaves to their masters

5. Harriet knew that her marriage to John Tubman must end because ____________ .
a: he didn't support her desire to escape slavery
b: he didn't provide enough money for their family
c: he didn't want to move with her further south
d: he wasn't interested in having children

6. After Harriet Tubman successfully escaped slavery, she ________________ .
a: settled down as a free woman in Pennsylvania
b: she joined a community of other free slaves
c: she moved to Auburn, New York where she taught school
d: she returned to Maryland several times to help other slaves escape

7. Harriet Tubman avoided being sold as a slave by __________________ .
a: pretending to black out
b: acting crazy
c: purposely injuring herself
d: refusing to answer questions

8. During the Civil War, from 1860 to 1865, Harriet Tubman __________________ .
a: worked for women's rights
b: traveled and gave speeches
c: returned to the south in order to spy for the north
d: completed the Underground Railroad

9. After the Civil War one thing Harriet Tubman didn't do was ________________ .
a: to raise money for better education for black children
b: to help elderly former slaves
c: to remain single and enjoy a quiet life
d: to work for housing for women

10. To Harriet Tubman and other slaves, "The Promised Land" meant _______________ .
a: a place where slaves were treated with kindness
b: a place where slave family members could live together
c: a place where there was plenty of good earth for food to grow
d: a place where slavery was banned

Harriet Tubman Biography from Youtube:

Harriet Tubman's dream is mentioned in the article, "Sleep Science and the Mystery of Dreams."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Green Cities" from Voice of America.

STEVE EMBER: I’m Steve Ember.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I’m Shirley Griffith with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we explore ways in which local governments around the world are working to protect the environment.

These “green cities” are working to reduce energy use and pollution in inventive and effective ways. Such efforts by city governments not only help reverse the effects of climate change. They also help governments save large amounts of money on energy costs. And, cities that are leaders in this green movement set a good example to their citizens about the importance of environmental issues.


STEVE EMBER: The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement aimed at reducing the release of harmful gases believed to cause climate change. The United States is not part of the agreement. But since two thousand five, more than one thousand mayors across the country have agreed to sign their own version of the protocol.

It is called the United States Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement. Local leaders have agreed to follow the suggestions of the Kyoto Protocol in their communities. They have also agreed to urge state and federal governments to follow these suggestions. One goal is to reduce air pollution to nineteen ninety levels by two thousand twelve.

A “green” city might work on several kinds of environmental goals and programs. These include air quality, reducing electricity use, green building, public health, the reuse of materials, water quality and clean transportation.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The Natural Resources Defense Council works to protect the environment through activism, law and science. One of its online projects is called Smarter Cities. This web site gives a list of cities that have made important environmental steps. Its two thousand ten list includes twenty-two cities that have supported investing in green power and reducing energy use. The list is divided into large, medium and small cities.

STEVE EMBER: Boston, Massachusetts was second on the big city list. It is the largest city buyer of wind power in New England. It is also using its own wind resources to produce electricity. There are twenty small wind turbines at Logan International Airport. And there are other wind projects around the city.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Austin, Texas leads the large city list, while Chicago, Illinois is third. Both cities have made big efforts to reduce a problem called urban heat islands. An urban heat island is a city area that is warmer than its surrounding rural area. This is caused by several things, such as dark colored roofs which absorb heat from the sun during the daytime, and release that heat at night. Air conditioners cooling the inside of buildings add to the increased temperatures by generating hot air outdoors.

Austin has launched an Urban Heat Island Mitigation Project to improve the situation. The city is planting more trees. And it is rewarding businesses and individuals who have reflective roofs. This kind of surface absorbs less heat.

STEVE EMBER: Chicago has long been interested in green roofs. In two thousand, city officials decided to replace the black tar roof on the city government building with a planted garden. The aim was to reduce energy costs, improve air quality and control the amount of rainwater entering the city’s waste system. Green roofs also help reduce urban heat islands.

During hot weather, the building's tar roof could reach temperatures of up to seventy-six degrees Celsius.

With the garden, the temperature of the roof area was reduced by at least thirty degrees Celsius. Chicago has since created over three hundred thousand square meters of green roofs.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Washington, D.C. is also a leading city for green roofs, with over ninety two thousand square meters of green rooftops. The city also launched a program called “Skip the Bag, Save the River.” Stores charge people a five cent tax for using plastic or paper shopping bags instead of reusable bags. Money from the tax will be used to clean up a local river.

New York City is using water as a renewable energy source. For several years, the city has experimented with using waves in the East River to create energy. Officials operating the program recently asked for permission to put into place thirty river turbine devices.


STEVE EMBER: The people of Portland, Oregon are among the top recyclers in the nation. People living there recycle over half of the waste they throw out. The city has also worked to provide green transportation by providing safe bike paths and free parking spaces where electric cars can recharge.

In Oakland, California, you can ride on one of several public hydrogen-powered buses. These buses release zero pollution into the air. However, they cost about five times more than common buses.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Cost is also a major issue in creating green buildings and systems. Green building materials and systems usually cost more money than normal ones. However, homeowners are increasingly willing to pay more money to have lower energy costs in the future. And, builders are offering more green building methods and products as they become more important to buyers.

Many cities offer money for homeowners who put in place green technologies such as solar power systems. This helps support green efforts by reducing the cost to homeowners.

Investors are also taking a big interest in the growing importance of clean technologies. The Cleantech Group researches the clean energy industry. It said that North American companies in two thousand ten raised over five billion dollars for investment in clean technologies. This is an increase of forty-five percent from two thousand nine.


STEVE EMBER: The United States Green Building Council is changing the way people build in cities. This nonprofit organization has a rating system for making environmentally safe public and private buildings. It is called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED. Many cities now require that new buildings be built according to LEED environmental requirements.

LEED is not the only rating system for green buildings. For example, the National Association of Homebuilders has its own set of rules. And, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy joined to create the Energy Star program.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Energy Star gives ratings to devices for the home based on how they use energy. And the program helps homeowners learn how to make changes to their houses to use energy effectively. Energy Star estimates that in two thousand nine it helped Americans avoid the release of harmful gases equal to what thirty million cars would produce. And, it says Americans saved seventeen billion dollars on energy costs.

STEVE EMBER: One small town in Kansas is about as green as its name. In May of two thousand seven, a tornado windstorm destroyed most of the town of Greensburg, Kansas. The town decided to rebuild in a better way, using green methods.

Greensburg officials decided that all public building projects would follow LEED top-level requirements. For example, the 5.4.7. Arts Center is completely powered by energy from the wind and sun. It was named after the date the tornado struck. The television station Planet Green aired a program on the town called “Greensburg.” Over three seasons, the show told about the town, its people, and the green building efforts.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The United Arab Emirates has taken green building a step further with the Masdar City project. Its aim is to be the greenest city in the world. The city will meet environmental rules set by the World Wide Fund for Nature’s One Living Planet and the company BioRegional. Masdar City is about seventeen kilometers from the capital, Abu Dhabi. The goal for Masdar City was to produce no waste, no carbon pollution and contain only electric cars. The city is to create renewable energy from the wind, sun and other technologies.

However, economic troubles have slowed the project. The city was expected to be completed by twenty sixteen. But officials now say the city will be completed in stages. And, the city will not at first be completely carbon-neutral.

One important part of the city is Masdar Institute. This research university is being developed in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The goal of the university is to make the United Arab Emirates a leader in renewable energy technologies. Experts say developments like this may lead to a greener future for all cities in the world.


STEVE EMBER: This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Steve Ember.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I’m Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.