The Mae Jemison Story for Kids & Families

Have you ever sat outside on a dark night and stared up at the stars, wondering what’s out there? It’s not always possible in the city, but if you get away from the lights, on a very dark and clear night, you can see thousands of stars. People have watched the stars and wondered about them for as long as there have been people. What are they made of? How many are there? How far away are they? Why do they seem to move to different parts of the sky? Why do they twinkle? 

As other people have looked up at the stars like you, they have dreamed about visiting these far away places. As a child, Mae Jemison was one of them. Mae lived in a city, but during the summers as a child she went to camp. There, outside the city, it was dark enough to see the stars, and like you she wondered about other planets and stars and space. Then, she began to dream about what it would be like to go there.  And as Mae grew older she didn’t stop dreaming of going to space. 

Mae Jemison was born in 1956 in Alabama. At this time, Alabama still had many laws that were unfair to African Americans like Mae’s family. So, when she was three years old, her parents moved the family to the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. They thought they would be able to find better work for Mae’s mother and give their children a better education there. Her father was a roofer and carpenter, and her mother was a school teacher. 

The 1960s were an exciting time for space exploration. These years began with the first humans being launched into space! Yuri Gagarin, a Russian astronaut, was first and then Alan Shepherd, an American, was also launched into space. These years ended with humans landing on the moon for the first time: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969. 

But, as Mae watched all of these exciting events unfold, what she didn’t see in the space programs were people like herself or her family: African Americans and women. She followed every detail of the Apollo missions that brought humans to the moon. She enjoyed stargazing and imagining what it would be like to be in space. She went to the library and read everything she could find about space and science. But Mae wanted to see women a part of these programs, too. Still, Mae didn’t stop thinking and dreaming about space. On TV she found inspiration in the sci-fi show Star Trek, where one of the crew was a black woman doing important work as part of a starship crew.  And, her parents encouraged her to explore her interests. She studied earth history, chemistry, dance, and theater all in addition to space.

Growing up, Mae once told her teacher that she wanted to be a scientist. The teacher responded by asking if she meant to say “nurse.” Although being a nurse is a very important job, Mae stood firm and corrected her teacher, saying she really did want to be a scientist. She wasn’t about to have someone tell her what she should be. 

Later, other grown-ups encouraged Mae, such as a middle school teacher who helped her research different space and science related jobs. Different people in your life may encourage or discourage you, but you should never be afraid to say what you think or pursue a subject that interests you! Be sure to pay the most attention to people who care about you and encourage you and build you up! 

In college, Mae studied chemical engineering, but was also involved in dance and theater productions. In fact, she even considered trying to become a dancer! But Mae decided to continue studying science and went to medical school. From there, she studied in Cuba and Kenya, and also worked in a refugee camp in Thailand. A refugee camp is where people fleeing a war go to be safe, and Cambodia had just ended a long civil war. After medical school, Mae went on to work for the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia. She speaks Swahili, Japanese, Russian, and, of course, English.

But through all this, Mae never stopped thinking about her dream to go to space. In 1985 she applied to the space program led by NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Association. To her joy, they accepted her, making Mae the first African American woman to enter the astronaut training program! During her training, Mae had to learn astronomy, engineering, space shuttle systems and many other subjects that help astronauts do their jobs. She trained physically, which can be very hard on the body. Astronauts must be very strong and healthy, because being in zero gravity puts a lot of stress on the human body. Zero gravity means you are floating because there is little to no gravity in space. One of Mae’s obstacles was also a fear of heights! Do you have a fear of heights? If so, Mae can relate to you. We all have fears but this was Mae’s. She had t o overcome her fear of heights to complete parachute training, but later said there was no question that it was worth it. She either had to face her fears, or not go to space. 

After training, Mae spent a few years helping with space shuttle launches at Kennedy Space Center. Then in September 1992, Mae joined six other astronauts on the space shuttle named Endeavor. Her job was a mission specialist, in some ways like her hero from the Star Trek TV show! She spent eight days in space. There, she performed experiments such as the effects of weightlessness and motion sickness on the crew. 

Not only did her childhood dream come true, Mae became the first African American woman in space. She took with her reminders of people who had been excluded in the past: a portrait of Judith Jamison, a famous African American dancer with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater; a west African statue; and a photo of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license. If you remember, we learned about Bessie Coleman in a past episode! 

Mae left NASA in 1993, but is alive today and has continued to work on space-related projects. She started a camp for youth who are interested in space, and wrote a book for young people about her life. She often talks to young people who are interested in careers in space and science. She tells them to find a career they really enjoy and are good at, but also learn about lots of different subjects. Mae certainly followed her own advice by studying dance, medicine, and engineering, and then learning all about space science and shuttle systems in her astronaut training. 

Mae hasn’t stopped working on big, ambitious goals for space travel either. She leads a project called 100 Year Starship. The goal of this project is to make travel to other star systems possible within the next 100 years! Isn’t that amazing! This is a huge challenge! So far we’ve only sent people as far as Earth’s moon, and unmanned probes to the other planets in our solar system.  Going to another solar system would take thousands of times longer. That’s because distances in space are vast. At current rocket speeds, travel to the closest star outside our solar system would take 70 thousand years! It would be nice not to have to wait so long for something that exciting, don’t you think? 

The 100 Year Starship project is exploring new technologies that could speed things up. They are also looking at ways to solve other problems that interstellar travellers would face on their trip, such as having enough food and energy, keeping people healthy, tools to fix things that break, and making sure everyone is happy and entertained!

The vastness of space has inspired us to dream about the stars since the first humans looked up at the night sky. They wondered what was out there, made up stories and watched closely to try to explain it. The unknown can be scary, but it’s also the thing that motivates us to learn and challenge ourselves to do bigger and better things. We want to know what’s out there, to make discoveries. We don’t know what we’ll find, but as Mae Jemison learned after her mission to space, we’re already a part of it. We are part of the universe, just like the stars and moon, the planets and asteroids. So it’s only natural that we want to explore it. 

Many people didn’t believe Americans could get a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, a project that President John F. Kennedy proposed in 1962. But as the young Mae Jemison watched and tracked those missions from the South Side of Chicago, she and the world saw that enormous, seemingly impossible goals can be reached. They are reached by many people working together with a common purpose and vision. Mae Jemison helped show that race and gender do not matter when it comes to achieving these big goals. What matters is having passion, purpose, and determination. These are the kind of people like you who will build a better future for our world and beyond it in the stars. 

Sources

https://100yss.org/mission/challenges

https://www.biography.com/astronaut/mae-c-jemison

https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/mae-jemison

https://www.today.com/video/dr-mae-c-jemison-on-breaking-barriers-as-first-black-woman-in-space-101574725699

http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/545.html 

https://www.startrek.com/database_article/jemison

Jemison, Mae. 2001. Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments from my life. Scholastic Press. New York.

The History of Rosa Parks for Kids

Rosa was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskagee, Alabama. When she was a child she was often sick and sadly had to spend a lot of time in bed. Then when she was two their family moved to live with their grandparents on a farm in a town called Pine Level. Rosa loved being on the farm with her family. It gave her and her siblings lots of room to play and spend time with each other. They explored the woods and streams nearby and she enjoyed the school there. 

Rosa was safe in Pine Level, but this wasn’t the case in other places in Alabama. Rosa and her family were African American and this was a time when black people were treated poorly in Alabama. They were forced attend separate schools, used separate bathrooms, and to drink from different drinking fountains. This is called segregation. They were often called mean names or abused.

When Rosa was eleven, she moved to Montogomery, Alabama to go to a better school. It was called the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls. The head of the school was a white woman named Alice White. She didn’t go easy on the girls, but this wasn’t because she was mean, it was because she wanted them to learn and grow. Often people who love you, do this because they want to see you be your best you. This motivated Rosa to try her best in school and learn as much as she could. She wanted to become a teacher like Ms. Alice someday. 

Rosa stayed at the school until her grandmother became sick, so she moved back to Pine Level to help. There she found jobs to help earn money for her family. She worked very hard to support them. 

When Rosa was 28, she met a young man named Raymond. Raymond inspired her to take even more interest in the problems black people were facing in Alabama and other places in the South. He was part of the NAACP, the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People. Rosa was proud of Raymond’s interest in helping this cause. He often put himself in danger for it. Rosa and Raymond fell in love and were married in 1932.

In 1934 Rosa finished high school, then started working as a nurse’s assistant and later at an army air force base. On her way home from work she rode a bus, but like all African Americans at the time she had to ride in the back of the bus. It made her very upset to be treated differently. She didn’t say anything at the time, but she was very angry deep inside. 

Around this time Rosa joined the NAACP and helped as a secretary for several years. She also registered to vote. At the time the government in Alabama made it very hard for black people to vote. Rosa had to take a difficult test and pay a tax that was very expensive. When she was finally able to vote she was very happy but also upset that so many of her friends and family were prevented from voting.

Rosa worked very hard for her family through these years and continued to help the NAACP. She was never able to have her own children, but helped the youth through the NAACP. She wanted them to have good lives and took the time to care for them. 

To get to and from work, Rosa rode the bus every day. Like other buses in Alabama, this one was segregated which means anyone who was black had to enter the bus from the back and sit at the back of the bus. This day, Rosa took courage and got on the bus through the front. The driver told her to get off and get on through the back. Rosa refused! The driver told her to get off again. She said she would not. The driver grabbed her by the coat and pulled her toward the front of the bus. She sat down again. The driver continued to yell at her. Rosa finally got off the bus, but she had stood up for herself and made her point.

In 1954 Rosa made friends with a white woman named Virginia Durr, who wanted to help her and other African Americans. Virginia encouraged Rosa to attend a workshop in Tennessee that trained people to fight for equal rights for blacks and workers who were treated unfairly. People of all races and different states came together to learn how to make the world a better place. There she met Martin Luther King and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. a black congressman from New York City. There she began thinking about ways to fight racism in her own city.

On December 1st 1955, Rosa left home to catch the Cleveland Avenue bus to go to work. When she got on the bus she realized the driver was the same one who had forced her off the bus a few years earlier. Rosa went to the back of the bus and sat down. As the bus went drover further and more people got on the bus, the bus driver told Rosa and the others in the back up to stand up so the white passengers could sit down. Rosa refused to get up. The driver yelled at her to get up, but she did not. The driver threatened to have her arrested. “You may do that,” Rosa replied. Soon, the police officers arrived and took Rosa to jail! She was very afraid. Fortunately, her friends at the NAACP were able to pay to have her released until her trial. She was going to be put on trial for not giving up her seat. Can you believe that?

Rosa and lawyers at the NAACP decided they would sue the bus company for not letting her sit down. Suing is when lawyers use the law to try to punish a company like the bus company by getting money from them. If they won the lawsuit then hopefully the unfair laws would be done away with. 

Rosa and her friends also decided to boycott buses that treated them unfairly. A boycott is when you refuse to use something and pay for it, so it punishes the company. If no one paid for bus rides, the bus company would see how much it cost to treat African Americans unfairly. During the days leading up to the boycott, Rosa and others passed out notes urging others to not ride buses on December 5th. If enough people didn’t ride the buses it would send a message to the bus companies. Rosa was nervous about whether it would work.

On December 5, 1955, to Rosa’s excitement, she saw that the buses were empty and thousands of people were walking to work and school instead of riding the buses! They were inspired by Rosa’s actions! Rosa set the example by refusing to give in to the unfair treatment of the city and bus companies. And the boycott didn’t only happen for a day — it went on for an entire year! Never before had so many people in the community come together to fight for civil rights. And the bus companies lost money because very few people rode the buses. 

Rosa’s trial also started on December 5, 1955. She lost the trial, but didn’t mind because they wanted it to go to a higher court. People around the country were watching the boycott and knew about Rosa’s trial. They started to send money to her and to the NAACP to support their fight for equality. She began spending all of her time writing and speaking about civil rights. She met other famous leaders and Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was also believed in her cause. 

On November 13, 1956 Rosa’s trial went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, the most important court in the country. The Supreme Court is located in Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court judges ruled that not allowing people sit where they want on a bus because of their race was against the Constitution — and not legal. Rosa Parks and her friends had scored a huge victory!

Soon after the trial, Rosa rode in the front of the bus and a famous photograph was taken of her to memorialize the event and her bravery in standing up to an unfair system. 

While there was still much work to do, Rosa’s act of courage and the result of the trial is often considered one of the first big events in the Civil Rights Movement. In August 1963 over 200,000 people marched in Washington, D.C. to show their support for Civil Rights. There Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream Speech.” Rosa was excited to see so many others speaking out about Civil Rights. Then in 1964, the President signed the Civil Rights Act that made it illegal to treat people differently because of their race.

Eventually, Rosa and her husband moved to Detroit and lived a quiet life there. In 1966 Rosa was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. She received many other awards over the years for her bravery. She wrote books and spoke about her life and passed away at the age of 92. 

Spend some time thinking about Rosa and her decision to stand up for herself and for her rights. She was afraid and knew that she might get in trouble for it, but doing what was right was more important than her feelings. She refused to move when the driver told her to move. She knew it was wrong and didn’t back down. There will be times in your life when you will have the chance to stand up for yourself and others. Take courage even when you are afraid. Speak up when something wrong is happening! If not you, then who? You can make a difference in the world by speaking up and taking action. 

History of Jackie Robinson for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you’re in a baseball stadium and stepping up to bat. Dodger stadium is packed full of cheering fans. Some are cheering you on, others are calling you horrible names from the stands. You take a deep breath and try to ignore them. You hold up your bat and look at the pitcher, who is preparing to throw the ball. He pulls back, then throws the ball and it comes flying toward at full speed. You swing your bat and hit the ball. With a crack it flies high over the field as you sprint from first base, then on to second, third and home. It’s a homerun! Your teammates congratulate you, but some in the stands are still calling you mean names. This is what happened to Jackie Robinson, the famous baseball player. But who was Jackie Ronbinson? How did he end up playing for the Dodgers? And why was the crowd calling him horrible names? 

Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was born January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia. His father left the family when he was little, leaving his mother, Mallie, to raise him and his four other siblings. Soon after this they moved to Pasadena, California. In California Jackie and his family lived in a neighborhood where they were treated differently. They had come from Georgia where most of the other families were African-American, but in California families in their new neighborhood were not and were white. This was a time when racial discrimination was common. Racial discrimination is when a group of people are treated differently because of their race and color of skin in this case. For example, they aren’t able to have the same jobs — or they are segregated, which means they have to go to different schools or use different bathrooms or restaurants. Jackie loved sports, but because he was black wasn’t able to play in the same leagues as the other kids.

But this didn’t keep Jackie from playing his favorite sports anyway. Two of his favorites were basketball and baseball. He spent a lot of time practicing and became better and better. 

In high school, Jackie’s older brothers Frank and Mack, saw how good Jackie’s was and urged him try out for the school teams. At his high school fortunately there was no segregation and Jackie was able to play alongside his white classmates. There Jackie ended up playing football, baseball, basketball and track and did very well in all of them. On the baseball team he was the catcher and in football he was the quarterback. For the basketball team he was a guard. In track and field his best skill was the broad jump. Oh, and he also played tennis. As you can tell, Jackie loved sports! 

After high school, Jackie moved onto junior college where he continued to play all of his favorite sports and do very well. He broke several records there, but later switched schools and moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA. At UCLA the teams were also racially integrated, which means Jackie was able to play on the same teams as the white athletes. In football their team went undefeated. In track and field he won the national championship for long jump, jumping over 24 feet! He also played baseball at UCLA and there met his future wife, Rachel. 

After college, Jackie played semi-professional football for a short while, but his career was cut short when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. Soon after this Jackie joined the army and applied for Officer Candidate School. At the time Jackie and others who were black were not typically allowed to be officers, leadership in the military, but eventually they were accepted. He and his wife moved to Fort Hood, Texas to start Officer Training School. One day at Fort Hood, Jackie was waiting for the bus to arrive. When it did arrive, he climbed on the bus and sat at the front, but the driver told him he had to sit at the back because of the color of his skin. Jackie refused and would not move. He did these knowing he knew he might be hurt or put in jail for his actions. The driver called the police and they took Jackie away. Tragically, Jackie wasn’t able to continue Officer Training School, because of his choice to stand up against discrimination.

Jackie was transferred from Fort Hood to a base in Kentucky where he became a coach for the army until the war ended. 

A few years later, Jackie was at the airport and stood in a part of the airport that was segregated. He was asked to leave, but did not. This was another example where Jackie refused to be treated differently, defied the law and put himself in harm’s way by doing so.

One of Jackie Robinson’s famous quotes was: “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… all I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” He also said: “There’s not an American in this country free until every one of us is free.” More than anything, Jackie wanted to be treated fairly and for segregation between people of different skin color to end. 

For a brief time, Jackie played for a segregated league, with other players who were black like himself, but more than anything he wanted to play for the Major Leagues, but most teams wouldn’t allow him because of segregation.

Fortunately, the Brooklyn Dodgers were interested in including black players. The manager of the Dodgers, Branch Rickey, called Jackie and met with him asking if he was interested and also whether he’d be able to be strong even when others treated him poorly. Jackie agreed and began playing for the Dodgers international team, the Montreal Royals. The Royals were a minor league, but a big step forward in his goal to play in the Major Leagues. Jackie traveled with the team and struggled at first, but began to improve and eventually became the MVP (or Most Valuable Player) in his league. 

April 18, 1946 was a momentous day when the Royals played against the Jersey City Giants making it the first time players of different skin color in a minor league competed against each other. 

In 1947 Jackie Robinson was finally invited to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Major Leagues. He played first baseman to a crowd of more than 26,000 spectators which included spectators who were black and white. At first, Jackie’s own team was unsure whether they were ready to play with him. They had come from families who believed in segregation, so it was new for them to welcome and become teammates and friends with someone who was black. But over time they became close and eventually supported him. During one game when the other team was harassing Jackie, a teammate Pee Wee Reese saw what was happening and put his arm around Jackie to comfort him.

Jackie finished the season with the Dodgers with 151 games. He had a batting average of 297, an on-base percentage of 373, and a 427 slugging percentage. He had 175 hits (scoring 125 runs) including 31 doubles, 5 triples, and 12 home runs, driving in 48 runs for the year. Jackie also led the league in sacrifice hits, with 28, and in stolen bases, with 29.

He ended up winning the Major League Rookie of the Year award. A rookie is someone who is new to the major leagues. 

Over the years, Jackie continued to improve at his game and in 1949 joined the all-star team. In 1955 the Dodgers went to the world series and beat the Yankees for the championship. 

Later after retiring from baseball, Jackie Robinson was active in politics and later continued to speak out about equality in Major League baseball. He later had a baseball stadium named after him and the Rookie of the Year award was later called “The Jackie Robinson” award. In 1997 his jersey number “42” was retired, which means no one was able to use the same number because it would also be reserved for Jackie. 

Jackie once said: “”A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Think about what that means for a moment. What does it mean to have an impact or make a difference in the lives of others for good? How can you make a difference in the lives of others for good? 

He also said: “Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.” A spectator means just watching others. It’s fun to watch others, but Jackie’s saying it’s even better to get out and play yourself. Think of something you like to watch? Have you ever considered doing it yourself? 

Spend some time thinking about what Jackie Robinson experienced in his life as he dealt with racial discrimination. Racial discrimination is when someone treats someone else differently due to their race, which means where they come from, the color of their skin, and what they look like. It was very hard for Jackie to be called names and treated poorly due to his race — to be forced to sit at the back of the bus, for example. But Jackie knew that all people are the same on the inside. We are all human, and all want to be treated equally and loved and cared for. We all have the same hopes and dreams and desires to lead a happy life. Jackie wasn’t afraid to stand up for himself and tell others that they were wrong. Often it takes time for people to change, but many people around Jackie did change. His teammates eventually accepted him and those watching baseball realized Jackie was the same as any other player and should be treated that way. Take the time to think about someone you know who might be a different race or appear to be different than you in other ways. As you get to know them you’ll realize you have more in common than is different. It’s also important to let others know they should be respectful of all people. If you hear someone say something mean about a different race or tell a joke, let them know those words can be hurtful and are not ok. 

The History of Harriet Tubman for Kids

Have you ever looked at money and wondered about the people whose pictures are on the bills in your country?  Most countries have images of important people from history on their coins and bills.  In America, most of the bills contain images of past presidents who did important things.  But as you know, from listening to this podcast, there are many people throughout history who have done important things that are not presidents!

This is why right now, in the United States, the government is working on plans to have the $20 bill redesigned.  The new version of the bill will have a picture of a woman that not everyone knows.  But she was an important person in American history.  Her name is Harriet Tubman.  When the bill goes into circulation, she will be the first African-American woman to be featured on American money. 

So who was Harriet Tubman?  Harriet Tubman was a human rights activist and former slave.  She fought during her lifetime for the end of slavery.  This is known as “abolition.”  She helped many people escape slavery during her lifetime.  She helped them get to freedom through a secret route called the “Underground Railroad.”  But let’s go back in time and see how she became such an amazing woman.

Harriet Tubman was born in 1820 in Maryland.  Her original name when she was born was Araminta Harriet Ross.  She had 8 brothers and sisters and her parents were slaves.  Her parents gave her the nickname “Minty” which was short for Araminta.  

Minty’s life as a child was hard because she lived in slave conditions.  A “slave” is legal property of another person and forced to obey them.  Minty loved her family, but they were separated when she was young.  Three of her sisters were sold to a different family and moved to the south to work on cotton plantation farms.  As slaves, Minty and her family often suffered violence.  Minty was beaten as a child by her “owners” which caused her to have injuries that lasted her whole life. 

Minty was inspired by her father, who spoke out when their “owners” wanted to separate their family even further.  They were planning to sell Minty’s younger brother to a different family to work on their farm, by Minty’s dad didn’t want anymore of his children sent away.  Her father resisted this and was successful.  To “resist” means to stand up against an action that you don’t believe in. Watching her father stand up for his family set a strong example that inspired Minty. 

When she was a teenager, Minty was hurt very badly.  She had been sent to the store to buy supplies for the farm and she came across a slave that had left the fields where he worked without permission.  The man’s “overseer” told Minty to help him get the runaway slave back.  She would not help.  The man threw a large weight at her and it hit her in the head.  She had headaches and trouble sleeping for the rest of her life. 

These experiences as a child and seeing how African-American people around her were treated inspired Minty to want to help end slavery as an adult. 

In 1844, Minty met a free black man named John Tubman.  Around that time, around half of the  African-American people in Maryland were free.  There is not much that is known about John Tubman, but Minty married him and changed her name to Harriet Tubman when she did.  The couple lived together for a number of years and were together when Harriet began her work with the Underground Railway.

In 1849, Harriet’s owner died.  She decided that she would escape slavery in Maryland and move to Philadelphia.  Two of her brothers, Ben and Harry, decided to come with her.  Her husband did not decide to go along.  On their way to Philadelphia, the three siblings saw a “wanted” poster with their pictures on it.  It offered a $300 reward if anyone captured and returned the three of them.  

The brothers were scared by this poster and decided to return to their owners plantation.  Harriet, however, refused to go back to living as a slave.  Instead she continued heading north towards Pennsylvania.  

Harriet travelled along a network known as the Underground Railroad.  The Underground Railroad wasn’t an actual railroad for a train, it was a path that ran from states that had slavery to states where all people were free. Harriet travelled this path for nearly 90 miles to get to Philadelphia.  She is quoted as saying, “When I found I had crossed [the line into Pennsylvania], I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person.  There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

Harriet was truly happy to be free in a free state.  But rather than remaining safely in the North, Harriet decided that it was her mission in life to rescue her family and others living in slavery back home. 

In 1850, Harriet helped much of her family make the journey to Philadelphia via the Underground Railway. This was the first of many trips that Harriet made along the route to help guide others.  

Because of her work and leadership guiding others to safety and freedom, she was given the nickname “Moses” by the people that she helped.  This was a reference to the leader in the Old Testament who led the people of Israel out of slavery. Over time Harriet was able to help guide her parents, most of her siblings and approximately 60 other people to Pennsylvania where they could live free. 

Because so many slaves had escaped, the States passed laws allowing for former slaves that had escaped their home state to be captured and returned to slavery.  So Harriet changed the route of the Underground Railroad to Canada, where slavery was not allowed.

Harriet continued to help others during the Civil War in America.  She worked for the Union Army as a cook and a nurse, and later an armed scout and spy.  Harriet was the first woman to lead soldiers in the war. She led a raid at the Combahee River that liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.  Liberated means freed from imprisonment or slavery.

In 1859, a Senator who was also an abolitionist sold Harriet a small piece of land in Auburn, New York. Harriet moved there after the war and got remarried and raised children there.  Much of her family came to live with her there as well. 

Even though Harriet became famous for her work to lead slaves to freedom, she did not have a lot of money.  Others who believed in her cause gave money to her to help her live and she shared this money generously with her family and others who needed help. 

When Harriet was an old woman, the head injuries she had gotten as a child became more painful.  She went to a hospital in Boston to get brain surgery to help relieve the pain and the “buzzing” that she had regularly in her ears.  Unfortunately she because sick with pneumonia following the surgery and died in 1913. Harriet was buried with military honours at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn.

Harriet was known very far and wide while she was alive and she became an American hero and icon after she died.  An icon is a person or thing that is regarded as a symbol. Today, she continues to inspire Americans struggling for civil rights and their allies with her bravery and actions.  Because of her amazing legacy, the U.S. Treasury Department announced in April 2016 that she would replace Andrew Jackson on the new $20 bill.  She was a freed slave and a freedom fighter, and for that, she emerged as the top choice for the first American woman to appear on U.S. currency. 

From Harriet Tubman, we can learn a great deal about overcoming hardships and the impact that an individual person can have.  Harriet dedicated her life to helping others.  She believed strongly in the cause she was working for, to free slaves, and took action and worked tirelessly to bring about her dream. 

Are there injustices that you have experienced or that you can see in the world around you?  What are some ways that you can take action to make the world a better place for all and to improve the lives of those who may be suffering?

History of the September 11 Attacks | 9/11

Saturday will be 20 years since the attacks that took place on September 11th, also known as 9/11. We call it 9/11 because 9 represents the 9th month of September and it happened on the 11th day of September in the year 2001. If you are younger, many of you may have not been born yet, but you may have heard about 9/11 from your parents or others who were alive during that time. I was alive during that time and it’s a day I know I will never forget.

Each year that September 11th or 9/11 has come around, maybe you’ve wondered why your parents, teachers, the news and so many people talk about that day. On 9/11 an attack took place in the United States in New York City against the Twin Towers. As you may know, New York City has very tall buildings called skyscrapers. It’s one of the many things that make New York City a famous place. I’ve seen the skyscrapers there and been to the top of two of them and they are amazing! The Twin Towers were two identical-looking towers that for a time were the tallest buildings in the world at 1,776 feet with 110 floors each! 

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the attack was carried out by a terrorist group called Al Qaida who was angry at the United States and wanted to Americans harm. These terrorists had been planning the attack for a while and their plan was to hijack (which means takeover) two passenger jets and then fly them into the sides of the Twin Towers. Al Qaida is an Islamic extremist group, which means they have strong beliefs attached to their religion and often behave in violent ways to protect and spread their religion. They were led by a man named Osama Bin Laden, who had been planning the attacks from the country of Afghanistan.

During the morning of September 11th, many people were working at the Twin Towers, but no one expected the attacks when they happened. After the planes crashed into the buildings and started fires, firefighters and police rushed to the towers and climbed the stairs to help people get out. Fortunately, many people were able to get out of the towers thanks to the help of the many brave firefighters who risked their lives to save others. 

As you can imagine, the fires inside the towers made them very hot. Towers are made with steel beams and steel is very strong but when it gets too hot it melts. Tragically, this caused both towers to collapse, which means fall down. Many of the firefighters who had rushed into the building were still inside, along with people who were working in the buildings. It was a very sad day for the United States and for people all around the world who had family members and loved ones inside the buildings and on the passenger jets. The Twin Towers, also known as the World Trade Center, was a place where people from all over the world worked and visited.

During the morning, two other passenger jets were taken over and also crashed. Flight 77 went down into the Pentagon, a military building in Virginia. Flight 99 went down in the countryside of Pennsylvania. Many believe this passenger jet was headed to the White House or the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. but the brave passengers were able to stop the terrorists before it made it all the way.

Do you know where the President of the United States was on the morning of 9/11? He was in Florida visiting an elementary school. President George W. Bush was reading the classroom a story when he found out about the attacks. Immediately, he rushed off to meet with his advisors and help deal with the attacks. It was hard to know at the time how many planes there were and where they were attacking, so it was a distressing time for everyone trying to help. The President ended up speaking to the news and to the world from the elementary school before leaving.

The rest of the day of 9/11 and the days following were very sad and difficult for everyone affected by the attacks. There was also a great feeling of patriotism and an outpouring of love for the city of New York and those who had been affected. New York started cleaning up the fallen towers and people visited the sites to leave pictures and flowers and other objects that reminded them of the loved ones they had lost.

In response to the attacks, the United States military sent soldiers into Afghanistan to seek out the terrorists and groups allowing terrorists to live there. Many battles took place between the American troops and extremist groups such as the Taliban and Al Qaida. Eventually, more soldiers were sent into Afghanistan to fight these groups and money was spent to try and create a stable government to avoid more terrorist groups who might threaten the United States again. If you’ve heard of the War in Afghanistan this is that war and one of the reasons it took place. There was also a war in the nearby country of Iraq which is some ways was related to the attacks on 9/11. As you can tell, the aftershocks of September 11 lasted far into the future and even today if you consider the number of people affected. 

Back in New York City, it took 9 months to clean up the fallen Trade Towers. In their place, they built a memorial to honor those who had died. Two years ago my wife, daughter, and I had the chance to visit New York City and go to the site where the Twin Towers once stood. Visiting the 9/11 Memorial is a very emotional experience. The design of the memorial is two large pools low in the ground where the towers once stood with waterfalls pouring down into them. The names of those who were lost are inscribed around the pools. There are many green trees and it is a peaceful place but also a very sad place. The pools in the ground represent the holes left in the hearts and lives of those who lost loved ones on 9/11. Nearby is a 9/11 museum now worth visiting and not far from the former towers is a huge new tower called the One World Trade Center. Some people said we shouldn’t build a new skyscraper because it might just become the target of another attack. But most people wanted to build a new tower to show that even when they are attacked they will start over, rebuild, and not be intimidated by those who would do them harm. This is what the new One World Trade Center represents, the resolve and determination of a city and nation that will continue moving forward even when tragedy strikes.

At the site of the destroyed towers President George W. Bush spoke to a crowd of rescue workers and said: “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”

Take some time to think about what it means to continue on even when things in life are hard. 9/11 is a time to remember people who were lost in the attacks. Take some time to learn more about what happened on 9/11 and the people who were lost or affected. With the help of your parents, you can watch videos and look at pictures that may help give you a better understanding of what happened and of things like the memorials and the new Trade Tower. If you click on the link in the episode’s notes I’ll include some pictures of our visit to the memorial and New York.

History of Bessie Coleman for Kids

Imagine you’re a pilot, thousands of feet above the earth on an airplane. You look down from your cockpit at the patchwork of fields and tiny, Lego-sized houses below you. You’re planning your route, but you’re not trying to get from point A to point B. Instead of flying a straight line, you dive towards the ground, falling faster and faster until, just feet from the ground, you pull up the nose of the plane, thrilling the crowd of onlookers nearby. You corkscrew through the air, fly figure eights, and loop upside down as the crowds gasp and cheer below. You are a barnstormer, a stunt pilot in the 1920s, performing daredevil feats thousands of feet above your awestruck fans. 

Today we’re going to learn about a world-famous pilot, Bessie Coleman, who was remarkable but for many other reasons. She was not only a great pilot, she was also the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license, and the first woman anywhere to have an international pilot’s license. Because her father was part Native American, she was also the first Native American female pilot. Not only that, she always tried to use her fame to help other black people and women. Sadly, at the time, both groups experienced a lot of discrimination in America. 

Bessie’s story begins before airplanes were even invented, and only 27 years after the end of slavery in the United States. She was born in 1892 to African American sharecroppers in Texas, one of nine children. As a child, and then teenager, she worked picking cotton and washing other people’s laundry. She attended segregated schools, but was a good student, especially in math. Under segregation, many states in the southern part of the United States had laws forcing blacks to go to different schools from whites, among other unfair rules. Even though she came from a poor background, and had to deal with unfair laws, Bessie had a goal of going to college, and as a young woman attended Langston University in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, she ran out of money and had to return home after one term. 

Soon after returning home, Bessie and two of her brothers decided to try to start a new life in Chicago. They moved north, where Bessie became a manicurist. She worked in a barber shop called the White Sox Barber Shop on the south side of Chicago. She became known for having the fastest hands in the city when it came to giving manicures.

She learned about piloting and airplanes from veterans, including her brothers, who had returned home from World War I. Bessie became fascinated by airplanes and flying. Her brothers would tease her though, saying she’d never be able to fly like some of the women they’d met in France during the war. 

But telling someone they can’t do something is often a sure-fire way to make them want to do it. So right then and there, Bessie decided she would become a pilot and prove her brothers wrong. But her brothers, weren’t the only people she’d have to prove wrong. At the time, there were no flight schools in the United States that would train women or African Americans. 

But there was France. Bessie didn’t have a lot of money, but she knew that if she could get to France, she could train as a pilot there. Her race and gender didn’t matter to the flight schools in France. To earn the money she would need, she began working a second job at a chili restaurant and learning French at night. She also began talking to some of the people who came to the barbershop. Many of the clients there were wealthy and influential.

It was at the barber shop that she met a lawyer and newspaper owner named Robert Abbot. Abbot published the Chicago Defender, one of the largest black-owned newspapers in the country. When he learned about Bessie’s passion to become a pilot, he decided to help. He published a story about her in his paper. His newspaper had more readers than any other black-owned newspaper in the country at the time, so the story got a lot of attention. A banker named Jesse Binga stepped up, and he and The newspaper helped pay for Bessie’s travel to Paris for pilot training. 

Since airplanes were so new, it was still not possible to fly across the Atlantic ocean from the US to France, so Bessie took a boat. She had been accepted to a flight school there, and completed her training in a biplane called a Nieuport 80. A biplane had two sets of wings, one on top of the other.

When Bessie returned to the US with her pilot’s license, she made headlines in black newspapers and aviation magazines across the country. She told reporters that she wanted to open a flight school for women and people of color. 

However, since aviation was so new, there weren’t many jobs for pilots at the time. There were no major airlines that flew people around the country like there are now. Most packages and mail were still moved by trains or ships. And again, Bessie faced discrimination because of her race and gender. She was unable to get one of the few piloting jobs there were.  

Instead of flying for airlines or shipping companies like they do now, many pilots in the 1920s earned money as barnstormers. They would fly to a new town, land in a farm, and ask the farmer to let them perform using their fields as runways. They performed stunts such as loops, dives, and figure eights. They also offered rides to people for money. Bessie decided to become a stunt pilot, and returned to France for more training. 

After Bessie returned to the US this time, she traveled around the country performing daredevil stunts for crowds of people. The Defender newspaper called her “the world’s greatest woman flyer.” She was nicknamed “Queen Bess” and “Brave Bess.”

Bessie loved her job, and used her growing fame to fight racism. In the 1920s, segregation and discrimination were still widespread in America, and were part of the law in many states. Bessie worked with other activists and gave interviews and speeches about ending racism. She refused to participate in any air show that didn’t allow black people to attend. In her hometown in Texas, she had to argue with the producers of an airshow to allow blacks and whites to come in through the same gate, but even then, they were forced to sit in a separate section.

Bessie became so well known, she was asked to star in a movie about a female pilot. Though the movie was to be made by a black-owned production company, Bessie was not happy with how they wanted to portray her. They asked her to wear rags and act as though she was uneducated, negative stereotypes of black people that were very common at the time. Bessie refused. She walked off the set and didn’t return. She wasn’t interested in being famous just for attention. She wanted to use her fame to improve conditions for other African Americans, and she realized  that this movie would not help her do that. 

But other opportunities awaited Bessie. A company that made tires in Oakland, California reached out to her. They wanted her to be their spokesperson and fly over the city dropping messages on paper about their tires. Bessie accepted the offer and went to California. There she flew and appeared in newspaper ads for the tire company. 

It was also in California that Bessie experienced another setback, this time a more serious one. In February 1923, she crashed her plane after the engine stopped working suddenly. She survived with a broken leg and ribs, as well as some cuts. The injuries didn’t stop her though: She said that as soon as she could walk again, she would fly. After several months, she fully recovered and went back to stunt flying. 

Bessie moved to Florida, where a preacher and his wife had offered to give her a room. She opened a beauty salon, still trying to earn enough money to replace the plane that had crashed. She began performing new types of stunts such as wing-walking and parachute jumps. Wing-walkers stunned their audiences by leaving the cockpit while another pilot controlled the plane, and walking out on the wings!   

Finally, in 1926, Bessie had earned enough money to buy her own plane! She had worked hard performing in airshows, giving lectures, and working at her beauty parlor. The new plane wasn’t fancy: an old biplane called a Curtiss JN-4, or “Jenny.” She hired a mechanic named William Wills to fly it from Texas to Florida. Sadly, the plane was not in good condition. During a test flight with the mechanic, the plane stalled and crashed. Bessie did not survive the crash.

News of Queen Bess’s passing was carried widely in African American newspapers. Ten thousand people attended her funeral in Chicago, where Ida B. Wells, a famous black activist, led the service. 

Bessie continued to inspire black aviators in the 1920s and beyond. William J Powell, another African American aviator and civil rights activist, started Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles, fulfilling her dream of opening a flight school for African Americans and women. Powell later wrote in his book, Black Wings, that because of Bessie, “we have overcome that which was worse than racial barriers. We have overcome the barriers within ourselves and dared to dream.” 

She was also an inspiration to many of the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first group of black aviators to fly for the United States Army. In 1992, Mae Jemison took a portrait of Bessie Coleman with her when she became the first black woman in space, saying that Bessie “exemplifies and serves as a model for all humanity, the very definition of strength, dignity, courage, integrity, and beauty.” The US postal service issued a Bessie Coleman stamp in 1995, and in 2006, she was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. 

Bessie Coleman once said that “the air is the only place free of prejudices.” But, in order to get there, she had to shatter many barriers that were placed in her path by a society that was unwelcoming to people of her race and gender. Instead of accepting the place she was offered in this society, Bessie decided to pursue her own path and make her own opportunities. She didn’t let the lack of training or jobs for black, female pilots keep her from her dream of flying. She forged ahead with determination and held onto her principles, knowing that her race and gender were not barriers to her ability; that she could lift others up by her example; and there was a place for everybody in the sky! 

Sources

https://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/bessie-coleman-the-first-female-african-american-pilot
https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/bessie-coleman
https://www.cradleofaviation.org/history/history/women-in-aviation/bessie-coleman.html

http://www.bessiecoleman.org/bio-bessie-coleman.php 

History of Babe Ruth for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are sitting in a stadium with crowds of people all around you. You smell buttery popcorn and freshly cooked hot dogs. “Peanuts! Popcorn!” A vendor yells from across the aisle. “Get your peanuts, popcorn!” As everyone gets seated there is a feeling of excitement in the air. The loudspeakers start playing, “Take me out to the ballgame!” The crowd sings along. You hear the crack of a baseball against a bat. The game has begun! 

If you’re familiar with baseball do these nicknames sound familiar? The Sultan of Swat? The Great Bambino? The Colossus of Clout? These are all nicknames for one of the most famous baseball players to have ever lived, Babe Ruth!

Babe Ruth’s real name was George Herman Ruth Jr. and he was born in Baltimore, Maryland on February 6, 1895. His grandparents were immigrants from Europe, so the first language he spoke was German. Growing up, his dad owned and ran a saloon. There, Ruth really did whatever he wanted. He didn’t have many rules and just ran wild with his friends through the streets of town. And with his dad being busy with the business, Ruth got into a lot of trouble. In fact, he got into so much trouble and his parents couldn’t control him that they put him in St. Mary’s Industrial School. This was a special school for boys who needed more structure than their parents were able to give them at home. At the school, one of his teachers, Brother Matthais, loved baseball. He taught the boys how to play and Ruth got into the game, too. Ruth ended up living at the school for 12 years and there got a basic education and learned some life skills. He used these skills and became a shirtmaker and could make things out of wood, known as carpentry. 

Ruth kept playing baseball and when he was 19 tried and made the minor league team for the Baltimore Orioles. The other players teased Ruth because he was the favorite or “darling” of the owner, Jack Dunn. Because of this they started calling him “Babe”!  This is how Babe Ruth’s famous nickname was born! Even though Babe Ruth was a big success with the Orioles, the owner ran into money trouble and he was forced to sell his best players to the Major Leagues.

From there Ruth was sent to play for the Boston Red Sox. When Ruth first started playing, he was a left-handed pitcher but really wanted to bat more, so he started playing outfield and first base. Ruth tried to hit almost everything, and because of that, he struck out a lot! But he was very determined and never gave up. He even said that “Every strike brings me closer to the next homerun”. And the Red Sox fans loved him, because he did hit a lot of homeruns! One year he hit home runs in 4 games in a row. The next year, he helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 1918. 

In 1919 Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees. The Red Sox sold him because the owner wanted more money and Babe Ruth was worth a lot. And the New York Yankees wanted him because they hoped he could help them win a World Series. There were lots of mixed reactions to him being traded. Some Boston fans were devastated to lose Ruth, while others thought he was too much trouble. While he wasn’t playing baseball, he spent a lot of time partying and sometimes getting into trouble. But the Boston fans who liked Ruth, believed that trading him started an 84 year “curse”, during which the Red Sox did not win a World Series. It was called “The Curse of the Bambino”. Before he was traded, the Red Sox had won 5 of the 15 World Series that had been played. But after they sold Ruth they didn’t win another World Series until 2004. 

With Ruth, the New York Yankees did very well! In fact, they won the World Series 4 times, and they won the American league title 7 times! When Ruth was traded to the Yankees he became a full time outfielder, and was now able to bat all the time. He hit home run after home run and the New York fans loved him! During his first year, the Yankees had a record number of people at the stadium, 1.2 million people. It was the first time that any Major League Baseball game attendance had reached 1 million. During his 13 years with the Yankees, he became the highest paid player up to that point, making 2 ½  times more than any other player in the league. At the time, Ruth even made more than the president of the United States! On the team he was part of a group of players called Murderers Row. They got that name from the power of the hitters. The players were Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, Tony Lazzeri, and Babe Ruth. 

Sadly, Ruth spent many years of his life drinking too much alcohol and not taking care of his health. He also spent most of the money he made on things he didn’t need and that didn’t help better his life. Because of his poor health choices, he began to have trouble running the bases and catching the ball. He played his last full season with the Yankees in 1934. 

Ruth wanted to become a manager of a team himself but didn’t have any luck finding a position. But like hitting home runs, Ruth was never one to give up. He once said “you just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”  

Eventually he was traded to the Boston Braves as a “gate attraction.” This means he was hired not necessarily because he was good anymore, but because he’d been famous and would cause people to pay to come to the game to see him. 

He retired early that year in 1935. The next year he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Babe Ruth became popular at a time when baseball became very popular in the United States and known as “America’s Pastime.” One reason was because the world had just gone through the first World War and then the 1918 flu pandemic, which were very tragic times and many lives were lost. America needed something good and positive to focus on. Baseball and sports figures like Babe Ruth became a symbol of that optimism and fun pastime. He also symbolized an American Dream that someone who came from very little money and didn’t have a well-known family could become famous. His life also showed us that it’s important to take care of yourself and set rules for yourself. If we want our bodies to work well we need to take care of them by eating good foods and exercising.

Babe Ruth worked very hard and took risks to become one of the greatest home run hitters of all time. He once said, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” This means there are many things you can worry about in life or fears that may keep you from acting. But like Babe Ruth said, if you worry too much about “striking out,” you’ll never get those things done and “swing the bat” and make the moves you need to take the next step in life. For you this might mean trying out for a sport or learning how to draw or some other skill. Don’t worry about what others might say or do, don’t worry about “striking out” and just act like Babe Ruth! 

The History of Memorial Day for Kids

Have you ever heard of Memorial Day? Memorial Day is an American holiday honoring men and women who have died while serving in the military. It takes place on the last Monday of May every year. Most kids and adults get this day off work and school, so usually the day is filled with parties and vacation time. I know growing up most of my memories of Memorial Day involved pool parties and barbeques with family and friends. And while it’s good to spend time with those we love, it’s also important to understand why we have Memorial Day. Growing up, I also remember visiting the cemetery to place flowers on the wreath of my grandfather. My grandfather served in England during World War 2. He had to leave his wife and daughter and while he was away his job was to guard the bomber planes at night. He didn’t die during that war, but we still honored him for his service. I also had a younger brother who passed away, so we always visited his grave as well. 

Memorial Day is a special time to remember those who are no longer with us. If you notice the word “memorial” sounds kind of like “memory” and that means on this day we remember our family and friends who have passed away. 

Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day and originally started during the years after the American Civil War. The Civil War was a time when many lives were lost, so many families around this time of year were thinking about their brothers, husbands, and sons and wanted to remember them by decorating their graves.

One reason Memorial Day is during the Spring is when flowers are in bloom and often families decorated the graves with flowers. No one is exactly sure when Decoration Day started, there are many different theories and ideas, but after the Civil War and World War 1 and World War II Decoration Day became more and more popular. 

One of the towns where Decoration Day was celebrated was Waterloo, New York. In Waterloo they held a large event where businesses closed and the entire community came out to decorate the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags. The first time they celebrated it was May 5th 1866. Over time many other states started holding their own Decoration Day. Often these holidays have a parade which include those in the military and veterans. A veteran is someone who served in the military, but was no longer serving. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. 

Finally in 1967 the United States government decided to make Memorial Day a holiday all across the country and placed it on Monday so it could be a three day weekend. Because of the time of the year it also unofficially marks the beginning of summer, which is one reason families use it to go on vacation, spend time outside, have pool parties, go to the beach and have barbecues. 

While Memorial Day is an American holiday, many other countries have days set aside to honor those who served in the military. South Korea has their Memorial Day on June 6th, the same month the Korean War began. The United Kingdom, Canada, France and many other countries celebrate Armistice Day on November 11th, when World War 2 ended. Each country has their own celebration that tends to correspond to the end of a war where they remember those who were lost. 

How do you plan to celebrate Memorial Day this year? Is there someone in your family who you will remember? Spend some time thinking about all that you have and the freedoms you enjoy because of others who came before you and were willing to sacrifice their time and even their lives. Memorial Day is also a good time to spend with your family. Take the time to think about how fortunate you are to have friends and family in your life and to not take them for granted.

The History of Presidents’ Day: Childhoods for Kids

So in the United States today is President’s Day. Presidents Day is a day we celebrate the life and presidencies of individuals who served in the highest political office in our country. Today we thought it would be fun to focus on a part of their lives that is often overlooked — their childhoods. And I am lucky to know some of the smartest people who know a lot about the lives of the Presidents! Most of this material came from Brittany at The American Moms. Check them out on Instagram or their website theamericanmoms.com. They always share great ideas about how you can teach and inspire your kids. So once again, a big thanks to Brittany at The American Moms for all of the awesome research.

So even though all of these individuals rose to the highest office in the United States government, many of them came from very little. Most of us know about Abraham Lincoln. If you don’t know about his childhood, check out our episode about Honest Abe, because we go into a lot more detail there. But he lost his mother at a very young age and often was left alone by his father to take care of his little sister in the woods of Kentucky. He had to teach himself to read and didn’t go to a normal school. He had to learn to become a lawyer all by himself, and he still became the President of the United States. That’s pretty amazing, right?

Andrew Jackson was the 7th President of the United States. The year before Andrew Jackson was born his family immigrated (that means moved) to America from Ireland. Sadly, his father died just after Andrew was born and his mother hoped Andrew would become a minister in their church, but he was a pretty wild kid and that continued until he was an adult, so becoming a minister didn’t work out. When the American Revolution started — that is the war where American fought for it’s freedom from Great Britain — Andrew and his two brothers joined the war. Andrew was only 13-years old! Can you believe that? Sadly, during the war he lost one of his brothers and Andrew and his other brother was captured by the enemy, the British. While they were prisoners they became very sick with smallpox. Eventually, their mother arranged for their release and they were set free.

Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States. Millard was also born to a very poor family. Like Abraham Lincoln he was born in a log cabin to a family of farmers who often couldn’t feed him and his brothers and sisters. Because they didn’t have any money they sent Millard to be an apprentice cloth maker. An apprentice is someone who is in training by an expert clother maker in this case. While Millard worked there they paid his family a little so they could have food to eat. But as an apprentice Millard was treated badly. They worked him very hard. Eventually Millard saved up some money and bought himself his freedom. Then he walked 100 miles back to his family farm! From there on out he decided to educate himself and was so desperate to learn sometimes he stole books! It was a rough life, but he was dedicated to learning so he didn’t have to be poor and hungry like his parents. Like Abraham Lincoln, Millard taught himself to become a lawyer and became very successful at it. Often we think we can only learn by going to school, but that is not true! The people who become the best learners teach themselves things. You can do that, too! And believe it or not some day school will end, but it’s important to enjoy learning and keep on learning anyway!

James Garfield was the 20th President of the United States. As an adult he once said: “I never meet a ragged boy in the street without feeling that I may owe him a salute, for I know not what possibilities may be buttoned up under his coat.” Whe he meant was that even those you might see someone who doesn’t look like they could do much in life as a child, you never know and shouldn’t judge them by appearances. 


James was born in Ohio. He lost his father when he was only two-years-old. As the youngest, his mother and siblings were super protective of him, but had great hopes for him. They knew that whatever happened, James had to have an education. They did whatever they could to make it happen, saving every penny to send him to school. His mom even convinced local leaders to build a schoolhouse on her property, since that was the only way her children would ever receive an education. She really cared about their education!

But she was very sad when James quit school and went to work for a canal company. A canal is a man-made river that boats can move things up and down. Although James had never seen the ocean, he was fascinated by it. And working on a canal boat was the closest thing to his dream. 


Although James worked on the water, he had never learned how to swim. One night while working, he fell in the canal and almost drowned. Miraculously, he grabbed a hold of a rope and pulled himself in. The rope never should have been there and as James said “I took it as a sign that God had bigger plans for me.”

After this experience James returned home and decided to go back to school. He worked as a janitor and things began to improve for him. He quickly rose to the top of his class and was asked to be a teacher the next year. 

Theodore (or Teddy) Roosevelt was the 26th POTUS. When he was little his family was wealthy, unlike many of the other presidents, but Teddy was always very sick. Often his kind father would carry him around at night or take him on carriage rides while he was coughing. His mother tried to be very protective of Teddy, but his father took a different path. His father said he needed to work his body to become stronger rather than stay inside. Teddy spent much of his childhood exploring the woods, studying out the creatures around their home, drawing pictures of them. Later he went on to become a very smart man who knew a lot about nature and animals. He started museums because of his love for science. He also created the first National Parks to protect wildlife and nature. In his teenage years he spent a lot of time living what he called “the strenuous life.” He lifted weights and boxed and ran and worked hard to become stronger. Eventually, his sickness went away and he became a strong and courageous man. He became known for his rough lifestyle and love for adventure.

Spend some time thinking about these incredible people and what they went through as children. Even though they had very little or had hard childhoods they were able to teach themselves, work hard and do great things. Teddy Roosevelt exercised and explored the natural world around him. That helped him grow. Think about what you can do to improve your situation like these presidents did. As children they are no different than you. But the choices they made, made all the difference. For you it might be setting a goal to read a little more, or finding a new hobby that interests you, or helping a sibling who needs you. All of these little steps each day make a difference and change your character in ways that will last a lifetime.

I hoped you learned some new things about presidents. I know I did! A big thanks again to Brittany at The American Moms. Be sure to check them out! Have a Happy Presidents Day and talk to you next time!

The History of Martin Luther King, Jr. for Kids

So this coming month, February, is “Black History Month” in the United States and Canada.  Black History Month is a time for us to remember important people and events in the history of people of African descent around the world and in our countries. Black History Month can be traced back to 1926 when Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week to recognize the achievements made by African Americans.  Carter Woodson was a Harvard university graduate and he chose February as the month to celebrate black history because the birthdays of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln were both in February.  

We thought that for this month’s first episode of Bedtime History, we would focus on one of the great black rights activists and civil rights leaders of American history, Martin Luther King Jr.  Civil rights are the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia.  His dad was a pastor and his mother was a school teacher.  A pastor is a minister in charge of a Christian church or congregation.  Martin also had an older sister named Cristine and a younger brother named Alfred.  They grew up in a wealthy area of Atlanta called “Sweet Auburn” where many black families lived at the time.

Martin knew from a young age that he enjoyed a great childhood and a good education that not many black children in America at the time had access to.  It inspired him to want to help other black children have the same opportunities to live a good life.  He was also inspired by his father, who worked hard on activities to try to improve the lives of black people and achieve equality.

Martin was a very good student and he worked hard to get good grades.  Because of his hard work, he got into a good college when he was 15 to study law and medicine.  It was called Morehouse College and was the same college that his father and his grandfather had attended.

Even though Martin did not originally plan to become a pastor like his father, he became more and more interested in religious studies and politics during his time at college.  Martin decided to finish a Bachelor of Divinity degree so that he could become a pastor too.  

Martin was a popular student, even though he was one of the only black students in a mostly white student college.  He finished his degree in 1948 and was elected president of his class in his final year of college.

After he graduated, Martin moved to Boston to attend Boston University when he was 24.  While he was there and studying for a higher level degree, he met Coretta Scott.  Coretta was a singer from Alabama who was also in college in Boston.  She was studying music at the New England Conservatory of Music. 

Martin and Coretta fell in love and got married in 1953.  After Martin’s studies were finished, they moved to Montgomery, Alabama.  Martin became the pastor of a church there called the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.  He was a great pastor and had a special gift of being a very good public speaker.  People always paid attention to what he had to say because he was well spoken and delivered his sermons in a very convincing style.

Martin and Coretta had been living in Montgomery for a short time when they started to have children.  At the time, the city of Montgomery also became the centre for the civil rights struggle in America.  The city was very segregated.  This means that black and white people were divided and expected to live apart from each other.  Some people challenged the rules that forced them to live apart.  This led to a court decision about segregation of students in schools.  The court decision decided that while black and white kids had been separated in the past, they were now allowed to go to school together. 

The decision was a great victory for those who wanted equality for all people and the end of segregation.  However, the decision made some people who disagreed with these changes very angry. At the time, there was a lot of racism in the area. Racism means to have negative thoughts and actions towards people of a different race based on the belief that your own race is better.  

The fight over civil rights grew greater in 1955.  That year, a black woman named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus and she was arrested. The rules at the time said that she was supposed to sit in the back of the bus in the segregated section for black people.  However, Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus to protest this rule. To protest means to do something to show you are against a rule or law.

Rosa Parks’ arrest made a number of people angry.  A group of activists got together and decided to stop using the bus as a protest.  An activist is someone who works to bring about political or social change. Activist groups started taking more and more actions to try to change the rules that limited equality for black people and separated blacks and whites. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. became the leader and spokesman of the activist group at the time. Martin started speaking as the leader of a group trying to fight racism and bring about equality peacefully.  Martin admired Mahatma Ghandi and other peaceful activists from around the world and history.  Ghandi and others were people who taught that the way to bring about real change in society was to protest but not to be violent.

Even though Martin was trying to change things peacefully, many people disagreed with him. Many of these people threatened him and his family. Some even tried to set his house on fire. This was very scary for Martin and his family, especially now that they had four young children. Even though it was a scary time for Martin and his family, they were proud of the success of their protests and how many people had joined the cause for equality.

Next Martin began traveling across America and giving talks to big groups on civil rights and nonviolent protest.  His messages were becoming more and more popular, but also causing more and more people to be angry with him. 

Many people fought very hard for equality and the rights of black people and many people fought against these ideas.  Most of the protests were peaceful but some became violent when protesters and those against them became heated.

In 1963, Martin and his friends protested segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, which was one of the most racially divided cities in the United States. Martin was arrested and had to spend time in jail. It was a sad time for him because he was away from his family, but he used this time to write letters to those who opposed him, peacefully trying to convince them of why equality was right and good.

Later that year, when he got out of prison, Martin organized a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  A march is a type of protest in which people walk along public roads in an organized way to protest about something.  The march was peaceful and it was attended by around 250,000 people!  

At the March on Washington, Martin gave his famous speech, known as the “I Have a Dream” speech.  It called for a peaceful world in which all people are treated as equals.  Many people around the world watched Martin Luther King, Jr. give this speech in person and on TV.  Later that year, he was named “Man of the Year” by TIME magazine. 

In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. also became the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  He was only 35 years old. And in August 1965, the US Congress passed a law that gave all black Americans the right to vote. This was a big step and would not have come about at that time if not for the hard work of Martin and his fellow activists.

Unfortunately a few years later, Martin’s life and work were cut short when he was shot and killed.  He was standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee when someone shot him. The killer was a man that had escaped prison.  He was later caught and sent to prison.

People across the country were saddened by Martin’s death. The president at the time declared a national day of mourning, which was meant to be a time for the entire country to express sorrow over Martin’s death.  Later, in 1983, the US created a federal holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is known as Martin Luther King Day and is on the third Monday of January each year. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a brave and hardworking man.  He fought hard for the things that he believed in and to help others.  He believed in equality and human rights for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, skin colour or how rich or poor someone is. And he did so by always being peaceful.  He was truly an incredible man.

There is still much work to be done as society works towards Martin’s dream of “full equality”.  But by learning about Martin and his life and work, you can join the conversation and become part of the efforts that are still underway in your country to bring about full and meaningful equality to all people. And the ways in which you can help society become a more peaceful, equal and loving place. 

If you haven’t already heard it, I would recommend that you listen to the full audio of Martin’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  It is one of the most famous and amazing speeches of all time.