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True Story for Black History Month
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Up From Slavery reveals a secret to academic success . . . learn how to sweep a room.

Booker T. Washington once worked as a servant for a Mrs. Ruffner who was a neatnik. She taught the teenage Washington how to thoroughly sweep a room, how to dust, how to keep everything organized and clean. When destitute and homeless Washington applied to Hampton Institute in Richmond, Virginia, he was not admitted right away. He had fifty cents in his pocket, had not eaten or bathed in days, and looked like a tramp. The head teacher handed him a broom and told him to clean a classroom.

Washington knew this was his chance to prove himself. He swept the room three times. He moved all the furniture so he could clean every inch of the floor. He dusted four times. He cleaned the woodwork and every bench, table, and desk. When he was through, the head teacher took a handkerchief and rubbed it over the woodwork, tables, and benches, finding no dust or dirt whatsoever. She approved Washington’s admission based on his self-discipline revealed in his ability to clean a classroom.

Washington claimed: “The sweeping of that room was my college examination, and never did any youth pass an examination for entrance into Harvard or Yale that gave him more genuine satisfaction.”

Check out Grammardog.com's Black History titles:  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriett Beecher Stowe, and Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington.

FRANKENSTEIN DAY
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FRANKENSTEIN DAY is August 30.  Why?  Because it’s the birthday of Mary Shelley who was born on August 30, 1797.  Shelley began writing the novel Frankenstein when she was 18 years old.  The first edition of the classic was published anonymously in 1818 when she was 20.

Mary Shelley’s name appeared on the second edition published in France in 1823.

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!
4-23 William Shakespeare

Sunday, April 23rd will be the bard’s 453rd birthday.

Harold Bloom, Yale University professor and Shakespeare scholar, observes that Shakespeare’s writing marks the beginning of the modern era and our idea of what it means to be human. Shakespeare explored human fears, virtues and flaws, giving each character a psychological profile and inventing complex relationships that still spark debate. Did Lady Macbeth force her husband to murder by questioning his manly courage? Or would Macbeth have killed the king anyway without his wife’s taunts?

If you once had to memorize a Shakespeare passage, try to recite it again. Chances are you will discover fragments of Shakespeare’s verse in the cobwebs of your mind. If you never had to learn a passage by heart, try memorizing a few lines. Here are some short quotes worth committing to memory:

“Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant only taste of death but once.” (Julius Caesar, Act II, scene ii, line 32)

“For stony limits cannot hold love out.” (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene ii, line 67)

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, scene i, line 184)

“All the world’s a stage, and men and women merely players.” (As You Like It, Act II, scene vii, line 139)

“To be, or not to be: that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or take arms against a sea of troubles . . . (Hamlet, Act III, scene i, line 55)

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. (Macbeth, Act V, scene v, line 19)

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. (The Tempest, Act IV, scene i, line 156)

WHY DO WE SAY “MERRY” CHRISTMAS?
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We say “Happy” birthday, New Year, Thanksgiving, Easter and lots of other holidays. But Christmas is the only “Merry” greeting. The answer lies in the tradition of drinking alcohol at Christmas. “Merry” used to mean “tipsy” or “drunk” and the custom of getting drunk at Christmas goes back to the 4th century.

- 324 A.D. Early Christians celebrated Easter only. Pope Liberius added Christmas to the church calendar and set the date December 25. The idea was to attract more converts who liked to celebrate the Roman winter festival Saturnalia when houses were decorated with evergreens and everybody played games, gave gifts and partied.
- Middle Ages. Christmas was celebrated as a rowdy party with dancing, drinking and sexual revelry.
- The Reformation. In the 1500s Protestants banned the wild festival of Christmas, but Catholics partied on.
- The Restoration. In England the Puritans banned Christmas when they seized power in 1640. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, Christmas made a comeback. So did the drinking and revelry.
- 1844. Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol, a novel where Ebenezer Scrooge says, “Merry Christmas!”
- Temperance Movement. In the late 1800s in England, women campaigned against drinking alcohol at Christmas. They proposed doing away with the tipsy “Merry” and replacing it with “Happy.” To this day the English and Irish say “Happy Christmas.”

O. Henry’s Banana Republic
O. Henry's Banana Republic Art 1

*Featured Artist: @trishalyonsart

How did O. Henry wind up in Honduras? O. Henry’s real name was William Sydney Porter. The author of beloved stories like The Gift of the Magi was also a criminal. Porter was arrested in 1896 for embezzling from the First National Bank of Austin, Texas. The day before his trial, Porter skipped town. He took a train to New Orleans and then a boat to Honduras. While holed up in a hotel, he wrote the novel Cabbages and Kings set in a fictitious Latin American country.

In the novel, Porter coins the expression banana republic that refers to countries in Latin America whose economies are dependent on a single resource such as coffee, sugar, silver, copper or bananas. Porter also invents the stereotype of the cigar-smoking former general who is the ruthless dictator at the helm of an unstable, corrupt government in Latin America.


After six months in the tropics, Porter returned to Austin when word reached him that his wife was dying. He was tried and convicted of the federal crime of embezzlement and sentenced to five years in prison. Porter spent his prison years writing short stories under the pseudonym O. Henry. Getting the stories published from prison was tricky. He mailed the manuscripts to a friend in New Orleans who would then send them to various magazines.


Porter was released from prison after three years for good behavior. He moved to New York City where he wrote 381 short stories and enjoyed considerable fame. A heavy drinker, Porter died in New York at the age of 47 and is buried in Asheville, North Carolina where he owned a summer home.