Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Celebrate Women's History Month 2017

Did you know that March is Women's History Month? MCPL has free online resources, events, and books to help you learn and celebrate!

Celebrate Women's History Month. Pictures of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Clara Barton, Louisa May Alcott, Chestnut Lodge and book cover of Lilly Stone
If you're looking to explore and research online, we've got some wonderful, authoritative resources for you! Get started with History in Context and History Reference Center. They have information from the U.S. and around the world gathered from reference and primary sources as well as news and multimedia. You can browse and search on a wide variety of topics such as the Women's Rights Movement, women's suffrage, women during the world wars, and many more fascinating topics.

Malala Yousafzai
If you are looking for biographical information, you should have a look at Biography in Context. There you can browse and search for information on notable women throughout history. You can also search by gender, nationality, ethnicity, and occupation. They have information on women throughout history in many fields and occupations, from abolitionists to zoologists. The site provides articles from reference works, academic journals, magazines, and newspapers as well as images, audio clips, and videos.

Rosa Parks
Looking for historical information on African American women? The Oxford African American Studies Center online database is focused "on the lives and events which have shaped African American and African history and culture." It is a place where you can read articles, primary sources, maps, timelines, and biographical information.There are also many images included on the site.

You can discover history though song as well. Listen to streaming music from America's past, including songs about the suffrage movement and more, with American Song and Smithsonian Global. From Freegal you can download music (5 songs each week) from women artists singing in a wide variety of styles from a capella to zydeco, and many others in between.

Looking for a good book instead? We've got some great reading suggestions for kids, teens, and adults on women's history. Don't forget to explore our wide variety of e-books and audiobooks that also have fascinating books about women's history, women's biographies and memoirs. Ask any of our librarians for help finding titles or get e-mail suggestions from our What Do I Check Out Next? online service.

Be sure to mark your calendars for these engaging and fascinating programs about women's history you won't want to miss!

Lilly Stone book cover

We're happy to help you start your journey exploring women's history today at MCPL!


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Experience African American History in Montgomery County

Did you know that...
  • Montgomery County, MD was part of the Underground Railroad network, which helped runaway slaves find freedom?
  • Josiah Henson, who worked as a slave on a county plantation, later published an autobiography that influenced the abolition of slavery?
  • Because of the community of Quakers living in the Sandy Spring area, many slaves were freed as early as the 1820s, 40 years before the Civil War?
In honor of Black History Month, we’d like to share the extraordinary stories behind some of Montgomery County’s African American historical sites and provide resources and links to explore them further. Each of these Montgomery Parks sites have been or are in the process of being restored. Visitors can gain insight into life as an African American in centuries past, reflecting on the brutality of slavery in colonial America, while also learning about the rich cultural practices of African Americans passed down to later generations. The information below is compiled primarily from Montgomery Parks’ literature, MCPL databases and newspaper articles. Please see the reference list at the end of this post for more details.

Log cabin at Josiah Henson Park
This log cabin, built in 1850, was used as a kitchen
on the Riley Plantation.
Josiah Henson was born into slavery in 1789. As a child, he moved to Montgomery County as the property of Isaac Riley. In 1830 he and his family escaped to Canada. There, Reverend Henson formed a community for escaped slaves and later became a ‘conductor’ on the Underground Railroad. He also wrote his autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself, which was published in 1849. Later editions included an introduction by author Harriet Beecher Stowe, who drew on Henson’s experiences for her own book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Learn more about Henson and Stowe from MCPL’s biography databases. 

Josiah Henson Park sign
Montgomery County acquired the Riley home in 2006. The log cabin dates back to 1850 and was built after Henson escaped, but ongoing archeological excavations are underway to locate the slave quarters that may have housed Henson. At this time, the Josiah Henson Park is open only for special events and school visits. Montgomery Parks plans to build a museum and interpretive center at the site. In celebration of Black History Month, tours and special events are scheduled for the weekend of February 25 and 26.    

Log cabin slave quarters
One of the remaining slave quarters
 in Montgomery County, MD.
The Oakley Cabin African American Museum & Park is only 2 miles from Olney Library, just west of Brookeville, MD. Originally built as one of three cabins in the early 19th century, this home was part of a larger farm owned by the Brooke family. Before emancipation, slaves lived here and helped run Oakley Farm. Census records reveal that from 1880 to 1930, African American and white laborers, farm workers, blacksmiths, and other craftspeople resided here. Historians believe they formed a community that sold produce and hand-made items to travelers along busy Brookeville Road. The cabin remained occupied until the 1970s. 
Oakley Cabin sign
The Oakley Cabin has been restored and is now a museum that displays historical tools and artifacts used in the 19th century, such as a
coin and crystal found buried by the back door, an African tradition. Visitors can get a sense of life during the Civil War, Reconstruction and beyond. The museum is open the 2nd and 4th Saturdays, 12:00 PM -4:00 PM, April through November. Special programs such as Emancipation Day are planned annually and school group visits can be arranged. Learn more about slavery in Maryland from resources in MCPL’s collection and our online resources.  
Underground Railroad Experience Trail
Entrance to the Underground Railroad
Experience Trail

The Quakers, a Christian movement first started in England, built a thriving community around Sandy Spring, Brookeville and Olney, MD, from the early 18th century. Because of their anti-violence beliefs, Quakers didn’t participate in wars. They were also early abolitionists who
established “one of the largest land-owning African American communities in Maryland” (Sandy Spring Museum). Quakers were active in the Underground Railroad, helping runaway slaves escape to freedom. See MCPL’s resources about the Quakers and the Underground Railroad. Please also visit our research databases, such as the Oxford African American StudiesCenter.
Woodlawn Manor visitors center
This 3-story stone barn was recently converted
into an interactive visitors center.
The Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park consists of several buildings built by Quakers in the 19th century. A multimedia visitors center, housed in an 1832 stone barn, opened in the summer 2016. Each floor displays a different aspect of life, from managing a large plantation to working on the Underground Railroad. The center also hosts a two-mile Underground Railroad Experience Trail that gives visitors a chance to experience the dangers confronted by escaped slaves and the skills needed to survive in the wild. The trail and grounds are open year-round; the Woodlawn Visitor Center is open Wednesdays through Sundays, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM, April through November. 

Learn more about MCPL’s programs in celebration of Black History Month. You can also learn more about local African American history and culture from the Montgomery County Historical Society.

Montgomery Parks website 
Hembree, Michael. "Josiah Henson." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Gale, 2006. Biography in Context, Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.
"Josiah Henson." Contemporary Black Biography, vol. 90, Gale, 2011. Biography in Context, Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.
Orndorff, Amy. “Three Hour Weekend: Oakley Cabin African American Museum and Park in Brookeville.” Washington Post. June 26, 2009.
Officials Unveil Designs For Josiah Henson Museum In North Bethesda.”  Bethesda Magazine.  February 5, 2013.
Shin, Annys.  After buying historic home, Md. officials find it wasn't really Uncle Tom's Cabin.”  Washington Post. October 3, 2010. 
Historic barn tells the story of the Underground Railroad in Maryland.Washington Post.  August 15, 2016.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Alternate History

Book cover for The Man in the High Castle
For anyone who enjoys reading history, the "what ifs" of history can be just as interesting as what actually happened. What would have happened if the other side had won the battle, or the other party had won the election, or this significant person had died at the wrong moment? Historians have contributed to these speculations, including several collections of essays in the What If? series edited by Robert Cowley. Among the scenarios explored here are what if American had lost the Revolution and what if JFK had lived?

But historians can’t really compete with the imaginations of fiction writers who have created the popular genre of alternate history, found somewhere on the borders of science fiction and fantasy. Alternate histories are almost always dystopian, perhaps because it’s a lot more fun to write about dystopias rather than utopias. Where’s the conflict and possibilities for plot if everyone is happy, holding hands, and singing kumbaya? So when authors look to history for inspiration, they look for pivotal moments when everything could have gone wrong.
Book cover for Ruled Britannia

No wonder then that Hitler winning World War II is frequently the starting point for novels of alternate history. Classics of this subgenre include Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (recently made into a TV series) and Fatherland by Robert Harris. Another key moment is the Spanish Armada in 1588. Harry Turtledove, indefatigable author of dozens of alternate history books with themes as diverse as the South winning the Civil War and the Soviet Union winning the Cold War, goes Elizabethan in Ruled Britannia. The Spanish Armada is victorious and the English resistance movement tasks William Shakespeare with writing a play to foment rebellion.

Book cover for Ha'Penny
The most persuasive alternate history novels rest on some kernel of fact, making them more plausible, and more terrifying. This could so easily have happened, we think. The actual historical existence of a group of aristocratic British fascists makes Jo Walton’s brilliant Small Change trilogy all the more powerful. Farthing starts out as seemingly a traditional English country house murder mystery, but with one chilling difference. A Star of David is pinned to the victim’s body. In this alternate 1940’s England, a group of fascist sympathizers known as the Farthing Set gain control of the government and make peace with Hitler. England becomes a fascist state of identity cards, expulsion of foreigners, and persecution of Jews and gays. The two other novels in the series, Ha’Penny and Half a Crown, follow the rise of an underground resistance movement.
Book cover for The Plot Against America

Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America rests on the historical fact of Charles Lindbergh’s fascist sympathies and involvement with the America First movement. In Roth’s alternate America Lindbergh runs against Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election. His star status as an aviation hero and sympathy over the kidnapping and murder of his son make him a compelling candidate. He successfully whips up isolationist fears and wins. Roth uses the actual text of Lindbergh’s speech in which he accused the British and the Jews of conspiring to force America into war. The Lindbergh administration makes peace with Hitler and enacts laws limiting freedom of religion, which eventually lead to pogroms. Told from the perspective of an ordinary Jewish family living in New Jersey, the novel is a chilling and all too plausible portrait of an America that might have been.

For more alternate history reading suggestions check out these lists:

A list of over 3,300 novels, stories, and essays

Blog post author Rita T with a book

Rita T.