The 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics

1936 Summer Olympics Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

1936 Summer Olympics Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

For the past two weeks all eyes have been fixed on the 31st Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro‎, Brazil.  More than 11,500 athletes from 207 countries including a Refugee Olympic Team participated in 28 sports earning 306 sets of medals.  The diversity represented and celebrated at these Olympic Games harks back to an Olympiad where similar diversity was not celebrated and was almost stifled.

Eighty years ago in 1936 the Olympic Games were held in Berlin, Germany.  Three years prior the Nazis had taken control of the country under the leadership of Adolf Hitler.   The games had been awarded in 1931 to the democratic Weimar Republic government, and the Nazi government did not want to host them.  Joseph Goebbels, the German propaganda minister, persuaded Hitler the games could be exploited to further Nazi ideology in Germany and throughout the world.

The “Nazi Olympics” as the Berlin games came to be known were surrounded by racial and political tensions.  A year before the games the Nuremberg Race Laws had stripped Jews of their German citizenship.  Citizens in the United States and Europe called for a boycott.  Hitler agreed to allow Jewish athletes to participate to appease the International Olympic Committee who threatened to move the games to Rome or Tokyo.  Jewish athletes were indeed allowed to try out, but most were disallowed to compete due to technicalities.  In the end, only one Jewish athlete, fencer Helene Mayer, reluctantly competed for Germany in the 1936 Olympics.  She was tall and blond and declared an “honorary Aryan.”

Jesse Owens Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Jesse Owens Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

One of the stars of the Berlin games was African American track and field athlete, Jesse Owens.  Owens won four gold medals, set world records and gained international fame.  He also challenged the notion of Aryan supremacy.  A story that is often told is that Adolf Hitler was so angered by the success of Jesse Owens that he refused to shake Owens’ hand after his 100-meter victory.  However, this is a myth.  Hitler stopped inviting winners to his personal box fearing some of those winners would be black.  Instead, Owens said the Fuhrer waved to him.  Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American president, never congratulated the gold medal winner.  It was, unfortunately, still a time of racial segregation in the United States.

The Nazi propaganda machine was in full force using the Olympic games to promote “Aryan racial superiority” and physical skill.  In the end, the Nazi campaign was successful despite the accomplishments of Jesse Owens and other African American athletes.  Germany won the most medals with 89, eclipsing the United States which won 56.  The 1936 Olympic Games were the first to be televised.  Foreign visitors who attended the Olympic games came away with a positive impression of Germany and the Nazi regime.  However, these would be the last Olympic games for 12 years as World War II would start three years later with the German invasion of Poland.



Immigration and the Emergency Quota Act of 1921

Emergency Quota Act of 1921 Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Emergency Quota Act of 1921 Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Immigration has been a part of American history … well, since the beginning of American history. America is a nation of immigrants. The Spanish were the first to settle in America with the first permanent European settlement at St. Augustine, Florida. Forty-two years later in 1607, the first English settlement began in Jamestown, Virginia with the first African slaves arriving in 1619. The Dutch, Germans, French and Irish soon followed and since then people from all over the world have immigrated to America.

As the number of immigrants to the United States began to swell year after year calls for restricting the influx came.  The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first piece of legislation to “narrow the opening through which immigrants came.”  The turning point in immigration restriction occurred in 1921 with the passage of the Emergency Quota Act.  Expected to be a temporary measure, the Act set the quota at 3% annually for new immigrants based on their country’s population in the United States as counted in the 1910 census.  These restrictions became known as the National Origins Formula.  Revisions would take place in 1924 with a drop in quota to 2%.  Quota restrictions based on this formula remained in place for the next 40 years until 1965.  During this time, there was a significant reduction in the number of immigrants to the United States.  In addition, historians believe these restrictions led to the first cases of illegal immigration.

Once again immigration, legal and illegal, quotas and restrictions, is prominent in the American political landscape.  As the 2016 Presidential campaign and election unfolds, use eLibrary to keep up with the latest news regarding immigration policy and candidate stances, and to study the history, impact and legacy of immigration and American immigration policy and legislation.

Cinco de Mayo (NOT Mexican Independence Day)

Cinco de Mayo Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Cinco de Mayo Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Cinco de Mayo no es el Día de la Independencia de México.  Known for its festive parties with music, dancing, storytelling and food, Cinco de Mayo is often times thought of as Mexican Independence Day.  The latter is the most important national holiday in Mexico.  Cinco de Mayo, while a celebration of Mexican heritage, is perhaps celebrated more in the United States than it is in Mexico.  And, therein lies the confusion.  Even Wikipedia notes at the top of its Cinco de Mayo entry:  Not to be confused with Mexican Independence Day, which occurs on September 16.

The historic event associated with Cinco de Mayo, the Battle of Puebla, occurred almost 52 years after Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1810.  Even more interesting, France was at the center of the story and not Spain.  Mexican President Benito Juarez decided to stop interest payments to Mexico’s creditors including France.  Emperor Napoleon III, in an effort to force repayment, invaded Mexico.  The invasion violated the Monroe Doctrine, but the United States was in the thick of fighting its own Civil War and could not assist its neighbor to the south.  France proved successful in the beginning of the war defeating Mexican troops along the way to Mexico City.  That is, until it reached the city of Puebla.  It was there on May 5, 1862 the significantly undermanned Mexican army of mostly peasants and farmers (4,000 men to France’s 8,000) under the leadership of Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin defeated the French in a stunning victory at the Battle of Puebla.  Celebrations of the victory arose in Mexico and the United States.  Although the underdog Mexicans won the fight that day, the French would take control of Mexico in 1863 and occupy it for the next four years.

It would not be until the 1960s in an effort to raise awareness of the cultural and historical contributions of Mexicans to Mexican-American communities in the United States that Cinco de Mayo would gain the significance it has today — at least in the United States.  Cinco de Mayo continues to be celebrated in Puebla as well, but it remains a minor federal holiday in Mexico.

Shakespeare’s Legacy 400 Years Since His Death

William Shakespeare Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

William Shakespeare Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Four hundred years ago on April 23, the man whom many regard as the greatest writer ever to write in the English language died.  On that day, William Shakespeare, aged 52, may have breathed his last, but his impact on world literature and everyday life remains.  In terms of today’s social media culture, Shakespeare has been “a trending topic for more than 400 years.”

The Bard, as Shakespeare is often called, was a playwright and a poet.  His works — approximately 37 plays and 154 sonnets — have been translated into every major language.  His plays are some of the most frequently performed around the world.  Theatergoers continue to flock to his Globe Theatre (at least, its third incarnation opened in 1996) in London.  And, as long as motion pictures have been produced, Shakespeare’s works have appeared on screen.  His themes are not complicated, though his words sometimes may be.  His characters are diverse, covering the demographic landscape from star-crossed teens in love (Romeo and Juliet) to a king descending into madness (King Lear).  He was not only a master of the historic, dramatic and tragic but also of the comedic.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing are among his most acclaimed comedies.  Shakespeare’s longevity rests in the richness of his characters, some real and most imagined.

Shakespeare’s sonnets were considered outdated and underwhelming when they were written 400+ years ago, but their impact on literature has stood the test of time.  Who hasn’t read the words of Sonnet 18 — “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” — and been transported by its romantic notion of eternal beauty.  Read all 154 of his sonnets in Great Works of Literature in eLibrary.

eLibrary contains a vast amount of resources related to Shakespeare and his body of work.  Take a look at Shakespeare Quarterly and Shakespeare Studies, scholarly journals focusing on scholarship and criticism of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.  Search eLibrary’s Research Topics for pages on Shakespeare’s plays (15, with more to come) and other interesting topics like Shakespearean authorship.  Research Topics provide an excellent starting point for inquiry.  Read an entire play in The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  Celebrate William Shakespeare’s legacy by diving into these and many more eLibrary resources.


Black History Month: To Celebrate or Not?

Black History Month Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Black History Month Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

February 2016 marks the 90th anniversary of Negro History Week, the predecessor to Black History Month.  Begun in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the second week of February was chosen to honor the erased history and contributions of African Americans in the creation of America because of the birthdates of Frederick Douglass the abolitionist and Abraham Lincoln the emancipator.  Negro History Week became the month-long celebration we know as Black History Month fifty years later in 1976.  Today Black History months are celebrated not only in the United States, but also in Canada, Britain and Germany.

In recent years, criticism has arisen whether Black History Month should be celebrated.  Some debate its relegation to just one month.  The actor Morgan Freeman famously said, “You’re going to relegate my history to a month. I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.”  Others say Black History Month has veered from its original intent whereby famous African Americans are reduced to mere soundbites of achievement and excessive worship.  The complexity of African-American life is not considered along with the achievement or contribution to history some argue.  Other critics believe it to be outdated and wonder if African Americans need to be reminded of things past in a time when the United States has its first African-American president.

On the other hand, proponents of Black History Month argue it is as important now as it has ever been to understand the intricacies of black history — intricacies which should not be in the shadows of American history curricula.  They contend until there is complete integration of African-American history in the textbooks Black History Month will continue to be relevant.  Others advocate Black History Month’s usefulness in helping teachers discuss and examine issues of race and ethnicity in the classroom.

Carter Woodson spoke of a time when Negro History Week (and now Black History Month) would not be needed.  He believed “black history should be an everyday part of American life.”  Dr. Woodson was right, and Morgan Freeman was right that black history is American history.  It’s good to know as much as you can about American history no matter which side you take in the debate.



150 Years Ago: The 13th Amendment Abolishes Slavery

13th Amendment to the Constitution National Archives of the United States [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by the National Archives of the United States [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

With these words, the Congress of the United States formally abolished slavery — the Senate on April 8, 1864 and the House of Representatives on January 31, 1865.  President Abraham Lincoln’s approval of the joint congressional resolution paved the way for the proposed constitutional amendment to go to the states for ratification.  In swift manner, with Georgia’s passage on December 6, three-fourths of the states (27 of 36) had ratified what would become the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Once and for all, slavery was dead.

Almost three years prior on January 1, 1863, President Lincoln signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation.  Despite outlawing slavery in the rebellious states, it would take political maneuvering by the Lincoln administration to see the full effects of the president’s order recognized.  Interestingly, the 13th Amendment would not see full ratification until 148 years later in 2013 when Mississippi became the last of the 36 states to certify the abolition of slavery.

150 Years of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”

So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid,) whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a white rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.

Lewis Carroll Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Lewis Carroll [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

So begins Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Written by Lewis Carroll, the pseudonym of Oxford mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, this literary classic is celebrating its 150th year of entertaining both children and adults.  Published on November 26, 1865, Alice in Wonderland as it is more commonly known remains a best-seller.

Alice’s story grew from the imagination of Lewis Carroll as a simple, yet wonderfully wild story he told to 10-year-old Alice Liddell and her sisters during a boat ride on the Thames River in July 1862.  When Alice asked for a written copy of the story, Carroll took two years penning and illustrating the book he first called Alice’s Adventures Under Ground.  Finding that title a bit trite, he would later change it to the name it has been known for 150 years.

Since it’s entrance on the children’s literature scene, more than 100 versions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland have been published and two dozen plus film adaptations have been produced.  Translations of the book into many languages have been numerous. Screen interpretations have ranged from the 1951 Disney animated classic to the 2010 Tim Burton/Johnny Depp retelling.  In song, the story inspired the 1967 Jefferson Airplane psychedelic take, “White Rabbit.”  Today Alice can be found in a more modern format — video games and cosplay.  At 150, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland continues to be a pop culture star.

Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951) Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951) [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

The Mad Hatter by Sander van der Wel [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

The Mad Hatter by Sander van der Wel [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine … John Lennon at 75

John Lennon

John Lennon Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

John Lennon.  So much springs to mind when you hear that name: Co-founder of The Beatles, half of one of the most influential songwriting partnerships of all time, political activist, music icon. This week the music world and his fans will celebrate what would have been his 75th birthday.

John Lennon was born October 9, 1940 in Liverpool, England.  His aunt gave him his first guitar on which he taught himself to play.  At age 15, he formed his first band, the Quarrymen.  Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr joined as the band evolved eventually becoming perhaps the most well-known and beloved band of the 20th century, The Beatles.  John and Paul began their writing partnership in 1962.  Lennon and McCartney formed what some consider the greatest songwriting team of all time.  They created the majority of The Beatles songbook, and the group ushered in the British invasion in the early 1960s behind their lyrics.

The Beatles

The Beatles Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

After The Beatles broke up in 1970, John embarked on a solo career at times collaborating with his wife Yoko Ono.  Songs like “Give Peace a Chance” reflected his political and social activism and put him under the watchful eye of the U.S. which wanted to deport him.  “Imagine” became the best-selling single of his solo career in 1971 and remains a favorite of many to this day.  Yoko called it “the most successful message song of all time.”

In two months, on December 8, fans will mark the 35th year of John Lennon’s death.  His impact on popular music continues to be seen in those singers, songwriters and musicians who recognize him as an influence, and his legacy endures beyond the music world.  One can only imagine the words and music he would have created had he not been murdered by a deranged fan’s bullet.  It’s easy if you try.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: 70 Years Since the Atomic Bomb

August 6, 1945 and August 9, 1945 saw the only times a nuclear weapon has been used during war.  It was on these dates the United States dropped the atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively.  The mass destruction killed nearly 138,000 Japanese men, women and children in Hiroshima and 74,000 in Nagasaki, but the death toll would continue to rise in later years as the effects of radiation became known.  Hiroshima and Nagasaki lay in ruins and World War II with Japan effectively ended.

Destruction of Hiroshima After the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb

Hiroshima After the Atomic Bomb [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

A military base and city of 343,000, Hiroshima was the primary atomic bomb target.  The bomb was dropped by the Enola Gay around 8:15 a.m.  What followed was “a blinding flash in the sky, and a great rush of air.”  Within two minutes 60 percent of the city was destroyed.  Radio in Tokyo described the scene as one of ruins and with so many dead there would be no way to count all of them.

Atomic Cloud Over Nagasaki

Atomic Cloud Over Nagasaki [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

Nagasaki was an industrial port city and had a population of approximately 258,000.  It became the second city ravaged by nuclear warfare when the atomic bomb was dropped at 11:00 a.m. on August 9.  The scene was described in colorful terms as a flash of “bluish-green light” and “pillar of purple fire.”  Nearly 74,000 were killed and the same number injured.

The reason for using the bomb, according to President Truman, was to end the war with Japan swiftly and more importantly to save the lives of American service members.  While that argument has been debated, the impact of the bomb did lead to the Japanese surrender on August 15.

They Say It’s Your Birthday

It’s my birthday too. So Lennon and McCartney wrote in “Birthday” and the Beatles recorded in 1968 which also happens to be the year of my birth. Hearing this song (earworm!) got me to wondering who else was born on July 21. My search led me to three men renowned in their respective fields. Two share a sad connection. The other is perhaps not as well-known, but without whose forethought you may not be reading this blog.

Ernest Hemingway Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Ernest Hemingway Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

One of the 20th century’s most influential writers was born July 21, 1899. Ernest Hemingway was known for understated, but direct writing about things he knew personally, especially war, nature and love. animal. He became the writer for the post-World War I generation.  While his second novel, The Sun Also Rises, published in 1925, is widely considered his greatest, he followed it with novels also expressed among his best works, A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls.  His last story, The Old Man and the Sea, about an aging fisherman and his pursuit of a giant fish would garner him the Pulitzer Prize (1953) and be cited in his awarding of the Nobel Prize for literature (1954).  Sadly, after years of declining mental and physical health, Ernest Hemingway committed suicide in 1961.

Marshall McLuhan Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Marshall McLuhan Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Someone you may not be familiar with is Marshall McLuhan. A Canadian media theorist and philosopher, he was born July 21, 1911. He studied mass media effects on perception and behavior, and his work is considered cornerstone in the field. He coined the famous phrase “The medium is the message”—the medium influences how the message is perceived. However, his greatest work may have been his “’prediction” of the internet as early as 1964.

Robin Williams Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Robin Williams Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Robin Williams was one-of-a-kind.  A stand-up comedian and actor who could take on just about any role, he was born July 21, 1951.  He rose to fame playing an alien on the television show Mork & Mindy.  On the big screen he became known for both comedic (Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire) and dramatic roles (Dead Poets Society, Awakenings) as well as his improvisational skills.  It would be for a dramatic turn in Good Will Hunting that he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1998.  Like Ernest Hemingway, Robin Williams suffered from depression and deteriorating physical health which led to him taking his life in 2014.

Who was born on your birthday?  Find out and then go to eLibrary to learn more about that person–famous or not.  You might be surprised what you’ll learn.