Wednesday, October 19, 2011
The recent Occupy Wall Street movement has brought scores of demonstrators into New York City and other cities throughout the country. The United States has a long tradition of protest marches, demonstrations and parades. Who can forget the Boston Tea Party? Most demonstrations are staged in a finite period; organizers chose an afternoon or evening for the rally. When the rally is over, the crowd disperses and the participants go home. However, since at least the late 1800's when Coxey's Army arrived in Washington, some protestor's have come to stay. Economic issues are often the main the focus of these protests.
Coxey's Army came to Washington, DC from all over the country to ask for financial relief for the thousands suffering during the Panic of 1893. In 1932, the Bonus Marchers or Bonus Army moved into Washington creating shanty towns or Hoovervilles to shelter their protesters. This group was seeking financial relief from the government, too. The Bonus Marchers were World War I Veterans. These veterans wanted the bonuses they had been promised. If you want to know more about the Bonus Marchers, you can listen to a National Public Radio Soundprint broadcast, or read the book, The Bonus Army: an American Epic by Eric Dickson. The tradition continued, when in 1968, The Reverend Ralph Abernathy led the Poor People's March on Washington. Many of the marchers lived for a time in Resurrection City. You can read original articles written at the time of any of these demonstrations by accessing the Historical Newspapers Database.
Chants and music were a large part of these marches, too. According to the Hoover Archives, the Bonus Marchers chanted,
Mellon pulled the whistle.
Hoover Rang the Bell.
Wall Street gave the Signal
And the Country went to Hell.
The protest song tradition is described in 33 Revolutions Per Minute: a History of Protest Songs, from Billie Holiday to Green Day by Dorian Lynskey . A good companion for this book is the The Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries. The resource has a genre called, " Protest and Struggle." There are albums and tracks to download or play.
Montgomery County Public Libraries offers many historical fiction titles set in these time periods. Some titles include, for adults the John Steinbeck classic, the Grapes of Wrath and The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. Titles for school age children include Christopher Paul Curtis's award winning novel, Bud, Not Buddy or Rebecca, a Maryland Farm Girl by Diane Leatherman. Karen Hesse's Newbery Award winning free verse novel, Out of the Dust is a children's title adult and older children may wish to share. The picture book, Potato: a Tale from the Great Depression by Kate Lied, provides a way to explain economic depressions to younger children. To find other titles, search using the terms "fiction and depressions."
I Barbara M.