Friday, July 30, 2010

"Paul Bunyan, a Tall Tale" from Voice of America

ANNOUNCER: Today we tell a traditional American story called a “tall tale.” A tall tale is a story about a person who is larger than life. The descriptions in the story are exaggerated – much greater than in real life. This makes the story funny. Long ago, the people who settled in undeveloped areas in America first told tall tales. After a hard day’s work, people gathered to tell each other funny stories.

Each group of workers had its own tall tale hero. Paul Bunyan was a hero of North America’s lumberjacks, the workers who cut down trees. He was known for his strength, speed and skill. Tradition says he cleared forests from the northeastern United States to the Pacific Ocean.

Some people say Paul Bunyan was the creation of storytellers from the middle western Great Lakes area of the United States. Other people say the stories about him came from French Canada.

Early in the twentieth century, a writer prepared a collection of Paul Bunyan stories. They were included in a publication from the Red River Lumber Company in Minnesota. It is not known if the stories helped the company’s sales, but they became extremely popular.

Here is Shep O’Neal with our story about Paul Bunyan.


STORYTELLER: Many years ago, Paul Bunyan was born in the northeastern American state of Maine. His mother and father were shocked when they first saw the boy. Paul was so large at birth that five large birds had to carry him to his parents. When the boy was only a few weeks old, he weighed more than forty-five kilograms.

As a child, Paul was always hungry. His parents needed tens cows to supply milk for his meals. Before long, he ate fifty eggs and ten containers of potatoes every day.

Young Paul grew so big that his parents did not know what to do with him. Once, Paul rolled over so much in his sleep that he caused an earthquake. This angered people in the town where his parents lived. So, the government told his mother and father they would have to move him somewhere else.

Paul’s father built a wooden cradle -- a traditional bed for a baby. His parents put the cradle in waters along the coast of Maine. However, every time Paul rolled over, huge waves covered all the coastal towns. So his parents brought their son back on land. They took him into the woods. This is where he grew up.

As a boy, Paul helped his father cut down trees. Paul had the strength of many men. He also was extremely fast. He could turn off a light and then jump into his bed before the room got dark.


STORYTELLER: Maine is very cold for much of the year. One day, it started to snow. The snow covered Paul’s home and a nearby forest. However, this snow was very unusual. It was blue. The blue snow kept falling until the forest was covered.

Paul put on his snowshoes and went out to see the unusual sight. As he walked, Paul discovered an animal stuck in the snow. It was a baby ox. Paul decided to take the ox home with him. He put the animal near the fireplace. After the ox got warmer, his hair remained blue.

Paul decided to keep the blue ox and named him Babe. Babe grew very quickly. One night, Paul left him in a small building with the other animals. The next morning, the barn was gone and so was Babe. Paul searched everywhere for the animal. He found Babe calmly eating grass in a valley, with the barn still on top of his back. Babe followed Paul and grew larger every day. Every time Paul looked, Babe seemed to grow taller.

In those days, much of North America was filled with thick, green forests. Paul Bunyan could clear large wooded areas with a single stroke of his large, sharp axe.

Paul taught Babe to help with his work. Babe was very useful. For example, Paul had trouble removing trees along a road that was not straight. He decided to tie one end of the road to what remained of a tree in the ground. Paul tied the other end to Babe. Babe dug his feet in the ground and pulled with all his strength until the road became straight.


STORYTELLER: In time, Paul and Babe the Blue Ox left Maine, and moved west to look for work in other forests. Along the way, Paul dug out the Great Lakes to provide drinking water for Babe. They settled in a camp near the Onion River in the state of Minnesota.

Paul’s camp was the largest in the country. The camp was so large that a man had to have one week’s supply of food when walking from one side of the camp to the other.

Paul decided to get other lumberjacks to help with the work. His work crew became known as the Seven Axemen. Each man was more than two meters tall and weighed more than one-hundred-sixty kilograms. All of the Axemen were named Elmer. That way, they all came running whenever Paul called them.

The man who cooked for the group was named Sourdough Sam. He made everything -- except coffee -- from sourdough, a substance used in making sourdough bread.

Every Sunday, Paul and his crew ate hot cakes. Each hot cake was so large that it took five men to eat one. Paul usually had ten or more hot cakes, depending on how hungry he was. The table where the men ate was so long that a server usually drove to one end of the table and stayed the night. The server drove back in the morning, with a fresh load of food.

Paul needed someone to help with the camp’s finances. He gave the job to a man named Johnny Inkslinger. Johnny kept records of everything, including wages and the cost of feeding Babe. He sometimes used nine containers of writing fluid a day to keep such detailed records.

The camp also was home to Sport, the Reversible Dog. One of the workers accidentally cut Sport in two. The man hurried to put the dog back together, but made a mistake. He bent the animal’s back the wrong way. However, that was not a problem for Sport. He learned to run on his front legs until he was tired. Then, he turned the other way and ran on his back legs.


STORYTELLER: Big mosquitoes were a problem at the camp. The men attacked the insects with their axes and long sticks. Before long, the men put barriers around their living space. Then, Paul ordered them to get big bees to destroy the mosquitoes. But the bees married the mosquitoes, and the problem got worse. They began to produce young insects. One day, the insects’ love of sweets caused them to attack a ship that was bringing sugar to the camp. At last, the mosquitoes and bees were defeated. They ate so much sugar they could not move.

Paul always gave Babe the Blue Ox a thirty-five kilogram piece of sugar when he was good. But sometimes Babe liked to play tricks. At night, Babe would make noises and hit the ground with his feet. The men at the camp would run out of the buildings where they slept, thinking it was an earthquake.

When winter came, Babe had trouble finding enough food to eat. Snow covered everything. Ole the Blacksmith solved the problem. He made huge green sunglasses for Babe. When Babe wore the sunglasses, he thought the snow was grass. Before long, Babe was strong and healthy again.

One year, Paul’s camp was especially cold. It was so cold that the men let their facial hair grow very long. When the men spoke, their words froze in the air. Everything they said remained frozen all winter long, and did not melt until spring.

Paul Bunyan and Babe left their mark on many areas. Some people say they were responsible for creating Puget Sound in the western state of Washington. Others say Paul Bunyan and Babe cleared the trees from the states of North Dakota and South Dakota. They prepared this area for farming.

Babe the Blue Ox died in South Dakota. One story says he ate too many hot cakes. Paul buried his old friend there. Today, the burial place is known as the Black Hills.

Whatever happened to Paul Bunyan? There are lots of stories. Some people say he was last seen in Alaska, or even the Arctic Circle. Another tradition says he still returns to Minnesota every summer. It says Paul moves in and out of the woods, so few people ever know that he is there.


You have just heard the story of Paul Bunyan. It was adapted for Special English by George Grow. Your narrator was Shep O’Neal. Join us again next week for another American story, in Special English, on the Voice of America. This is Faith Lapidus.

From ELLLO, Jake tells Shirley about himself and about the myth of Paul Bunyan.

From ELLLO, Jake shares with Shirley why the myth of Paul Bunyan lives on.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"W.E.B. Dubois, African-American Teacher and Writer" from VOA

I’m Steve Ember. And I'm Sarah Long with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today we tell about W.E.B. Du Bois. He was an African-American writer, teacher and protest leader.


William Edward Burghardt Du Bois fought for civil rights for black people in the United States. During the nineteen twenties and nineteen thirties, he was the person most responsible for the changes in conditions for black PEOPLE IN AMERICAN society. He also was responsible for changes in the way they thought about themselves.

William Du Bois was the son of free blacks who lived in a northern state. His mother was Mary Burghardt. His father was Alfred Du Bois. His parents had never been slaves. Nor were their parents. William was born into this free and independent African-American family in eighteen sixty-eight in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

William's mother felt that ability and hard work would lead to success. She urged him to seek an excellent education. In the early part of the century, it was not easy for most black people to get a good education. But William had a good experience in school. His intelligence earned him the respect of other students. He moved quickly through school.

It was in those years in school that William Du Bois learned what he later called the secret of his success. His secret, he said, was to go to bed every night at ten o'clock.

Fisk University
After high school, William decided to attend Fisk University, a college for black students in Nashville, Tennessee. He thought that going to school in a southern state would help him learn more about the life of most black Americans. Most black people lived in the South in those days.

He soon felt the effects of racial prejudice. He found that poor, uneducated white people judged themselves better than he was because they were white and he was black. From that time on, William Du Bois opposed all kinds of racial prejudice. He never missed a chance to express his opinions about race relations.


William Du Bois went to excellent colleges, Harvard University in Massachusetts and the University of Berlin in Germany. He received his doctorate degree in history from Harvard in eighteen ninety-five.

His book, "The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study," was published four years later. It was the first study of a black community in the United States. He became a professor of economics and history at Atlanta University in eighteen ninety-seven. He remained there until nineteen ten.

William Du Bois had believed that education and knowledge could help solve the race problem. But racial prejudice in the United States was causing violence. Mobs of whites killed blacks. Laws provided for separation of the races. Race riots were common.

The situation in the country made Mr. Du Bois believe that social change could happen only through protest.

Mr. Du Bois's belief in the need for protest clashed with the ideas of the most influential black leader of the time, Booker T. Washington.

Mr. Washington urged black people to accept unfair treatment for a time. He said they would improve their condition through hard work and economic gain. He believed that in this way blacks would win the respect of whites.

Mr. Du Bois attacked this way of thinking in his famous book, "The Souls of Black Folk." The book was a collection of separate pieces he had written. It was published in nineteen-oh-three.

In the very beginning of "The Souls of Black Folk" he expressed the reason he felt the book was important:

"Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here at the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line. "

Later in the book, Mr. Du Bois explained the struggle blacks, or Negroes as they then were called, faced in America:

"One ever feels his twoness -- an American, a Negro: two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideas in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. ... He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face."

W.E.B. Du Bois charged that Booker Washington's plan would not free blacks from oppression, but would continue it. The dispute between the two leaders divided blacks into two groups – the "conservative" supporters of Mr. Washington and his "extremist" opponents.

In nineteen-oh-five, Mr. Du Bois established the Niagara Movement to oppose Mr. Washington. He and other black leaders called for complete political, civil and social rights for black Americans.

The organization did not last long. Disputes among its members and a campaign against it by Booker T. Washington kept it from growing. Yet the Niagara Movement led to the creation in nineteen-oh-nine of an organization that would last: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Mr. Du Bois became director of research for the organization. He also became editor of the N.A.A.C.P. magazine, "The Crisis."

NAACP began in 1909
W.E.B. Du Bois felt that it was good for blacks to be linked through culture and spirit to the home of their ancestors. Throughout his life he was active in the Pan-African movement. Pan-Africanism was the belief that all people who came from Africa had common interests and should work together in their struggle for freedom.

Mr. Du Bois believed black Americans should support independence for African nations that were European colonies. He believed that once African nations were free of European control they could be markets for products and services made by black Americans.

He believed that blacks should develop a separate "group economy." A separate market system, he said, could be a weapon for fighting economic injustice against blacks and for improving their poor living conditions.

Mr. Du Bois also called for the development of black literature and art. He urged the readers of the N.A.A.C.P. magazine, "The Crisis," to see beauty in black.


In nineteen thirty-four, W. E. B. Du Bois resigned from his position at "The Crisis” magazine. It was during the severe economic depression in the United States. He charged that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People supported the interests of successful blacks. He said the organization was not concerned with the problems of poorer blacks.

Mr. Du Bois returned to Atlanta University, where he had taught before. He remained there as a professor for the next ten years. During this period, he wrote about his involvement in both the African and the African-American struggles for freedom.

In nineteen forty-four, Mr. Du Bois returned to the N.A.A.C.P. in a research position. Four years later he left after another disagreement with the organization. He became more and more concerned about politics. He wrote:

"As...a citizen of the world as well as of the United States of America, I claim the right to know and think and tell the truth as I see it. I believe in Socialism as well as Democracy. I believe in Communism wherever and whenever men are wise and good enough to achieve it; but I do not believe that all nations will achieve it in the same way or at the same time. I despise men and nations which judge human beings by their color, religious beliefs or income. ... I hate War."

In nineteen fifty, W. E. B. Du Bois became an official of the Peace Information Center. The organization made public the work other nations were doing to support peace in the world.

The United States government accused the group of supporting the Soviet Union and charged its officials with acting as foreign agents. A federal judge found Mr. Du Bois not guilty. But most Americans continued to consider him a criminal. He was treated as if he did not exist.

Dubois Mural in Ghana
In nineteen sixty-one, at the age of ninety-two, Mr. Du Bois joined the Communist party of the United States. Then he and his second wife moved to Ghana in West Africa. He gave up his American citizenship a year later. He died in Ghana on August twenty-seventh, nineteen sixty-three.

His death was announced the next day to a huge crowd in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of thousands of blacks and whites had gathered for the March on Washington to seek improved civil rights in the United States. W. E. B. Du Bois had helped make that march possible.


This Special English program was written by Vivian Chakarian and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Sarah Long. And I'm Steve Ember. Listen again next week to another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.


1. W.E.B. Dubois felt that his secret of success was ___________________ .
a: to fight for the rights of black people
b: to go to bed at 10 o'clock
c: to be a good student
d: to listen to his parents

2. William Dubois came to believe that social change for African Americans could only happen with __________________ .
a: education
b: police enforcement
c: protest
d: philosophical analysis

3. In his book "The Souls of Black Folks", William Dubois says that African Americans are ___________________ .
a: divided between being black and being American
b: divided between being passive and aggressive
c: angry at whites for the wrong reasons
d: not able to see their situation objectively

4. The parents of William Dubois _________________________ .
a: had never been slaves
b: were former slaves who had escaped slavery
c: were slaves when William was born
d: were the children of former slaves

5. During the Depression, Dubois felt that the N.A.A.C.P. ____________________ .
a: supported all African Americans
b: neglected African populations in European colonies
c: only supported successful black Americans
d: was only interested in poor African Americans

6. _______________ William Dubois started the N.A.A.C.P., he had many disagreements with it over the years.
a: Instead of
b: Although
c: Because
d: In spite of

7. In 1897, William Dubois began to teach _____________ at Atlanta University.
a: Art and Literature
b: Science and History
c: Political Science and Economics
d: Economics and History

8. The dawning of the Twentieth Century means _____________________ .
a: the challenges of the Twentieth Century
b: the beginning of the Twentieth Century
c: the unknown future ahead in the Twentieth Century
d: the same problems as the Nineteenth Century

9. Brooker T. Washington __________________________ .
a: agreed with William Dubois in all respects
b: thought that blacks could improve their condition through hard work
c: believed that blacks should move back to Africa
d: believed that blacks should pressure the government for change in the laws

10. William Dubois moved to Ghana, Africa. He gave up his American citizenship in ___________________ .
a: 1961
b: 1962
c: 1950
d: 1963

Bill Moyers, WEB Dubois Documentary from Youtube.