Langston Hughes Presents the History of Jazz in an Illustrated Children’s Book (1955)


I can imag­ine no bet­ter guide through the his­to­ry and vari­ety of jazz than Langston Hugh­es, voice of the Harlem Renais­sance and poet­ic inter­preter of 20th cen­tu­ry black Amer­i­can cul­ture. Hugh­es’ 1955 First Book of Jazz is just that, a short primer with a sur­pris­ing­ly high degree of sophis­ti­ca­tion for a children’s book. I would, in fact, rec­om­mend it as an intro­duc­tion to jazz for any read­er.

Hugh­es thor­ough­ly cov­ers the musi­cal con­text of jazz in brief chap­ters like “African Drums,” “Old New Orleans,” “Work Songs,” “The Blues,” and “Rag­time.” He then “dis­cuss­es the mechan­ics of jazz,” writes author and blog­ger Ariel S. Win­ter, includ­ing “impro­vi­sa­tion, syn­co­pa­tion, per­cus­sion, rhythm, blue notes, tone col­or, har­mo­ny, break, riff….” Through it all runs the life and career of Louis Arm­strong, whose sto­ry, Hugh­es states “is almost the whole sto­ry of orches­tral jazz in Amer­i­ca.”

Old New Orleans

The book is very patri­ot­ic in tone, a fact dic­tat­ed by Hugh­es’ recent appear­ance before Sen­a­tor McCarthy’s Sub­com­mit­tee, which exon­er­at­ed him on the con­di­tion that he renounce his ear­li­er sym­pa­thies for the Com­mu­nist Par­ty and get with a patri­ot­ic pro­gram. Hav­ing fall­en out of favor with the pub­lic, Hugh­es began the non­fic­tion children’s series to win back read­ers, also writ­ing the quaint­ly named cul­tur­al his­to­ry First Book of Negroes and the Whit­manesque First Book of Rhythms. All of the books were illus­trat­ed by dif­fer­ent artists. The First Book of Jazz received spe­cial treat­ment from pop­u­lar illus­tra­tor Cliff Roberts, who made its pages close­ly resem­ble clas­sic album cov­ers by artists like Jim Flo­ra.

Jazz Pianists

Although Hugh­es may have been some­what con­cil­ia­to­ry in his atti­tude toward inequal­i­ty, he nonethe­less makes the ori­gins and impor­tance of jazz clear:

A part of Amer­i­can music is jazz, born in the South. Woven into it in the Deep South were the rhythms of African drums that today make jazz music dif­fer­ent from any oth­er music in the world. Nobody else ever made jazz before we did. Jazz is Amer­i­can music.

“The par­tic­u­lar Amer­i­cans in ques­tion,” writes Win­ter, “are unde­ni­ably black,” and “when Hugh­es cov­ers the vast array of Amer­i­can styles that went into jazz, they tend to be (as they should be) black inter­pre­ta­tions of each musi­cal form.” But as he had always done, whether under pres­sure from McCarthy­ism or not, he proud­ly declares jazz yet anoth­er invalu­able con­tri­bu­tion African-Amer­i­cans, as well as Euro­pean immi­grants, made to the nation­al cul­ture. How­ev­er far left his polit­i­cal sym­pa­thies, Hugh­es was always a patri­ot, in the best sense, an admir­er of his country’s achieve­ments and gen­uine lover of its peo­ple.


Although it is a children’s book, Hugh­es’ First Book of Jazz is still a schol­ar­ly one, with a host of ref­er­ences in the Acknowl­edge­ments, and a list of famous jazz musi­cians, and their instru­ments, at the end. Also round­ing out the short course on jazz his­to­ry and musi­cian­ship is a two-part list of “Sug­gest­ed Records for Study” and one called “100 of My Favorite Record­ings.” Hugh­es even con­vinced Folk­ways records to release The Sto­ry of Jazz, an LP Hugh­es nar­rat­ed with exam­ples of each style of jazz he dis­cuss­es. You can read the full First Book of Jazz at Winter’s Flickr, where he has post­ed scans of every page. Vin­tage copies can be pur­chased online. See a gallery of Roberts’ full page illus­tra­tions here.

First Book

via Brain Pick­ings

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Child’s Intro­duc­tion to Jazz by Can­non­ball Adder­ley (with Louis Arm­strong & Thelo­nious Monk)

Watch Langston Hugh­es Read Poet­ry from His First Col­lec­tion, The Weary Blues (1958)

Charles Min­gus Explains in His Gram­my-Win­ning Essay “What is a Jazz Com­pos­er?”

The Cry of Jazz: 1958’s High­ly Con­tro­ver­sial Film on Jazz & Race in Amer­i­ca (With Music by Sun Ra)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Isaac Newton Creates a List of His 57 Sins (Circa 1662)

isaac newton list of sins

Sir Isaac New­ton, arguably the most impor­tant and influ­en­tial sci­en­tist in his­to­ry, dis­cov­ered the laws of motion and the uni­ver­sal force of grav­i­ty. For the first time ever, the rules of the uni­verse could be described with the supreme­ly ratio­nal lan­guage of math­e­mat­ics. Newton’s ele­gant equa­tions proved to be one of the inspi­ra­tions for the Enlight­en­ment, a shift away from the God-cen­tered dog­ma of the Church in favor of a world­view that placed rea­son at its cen­ter. The many lead­ers of the Enlight­en­ment turned to deism if not out­right athe­ism. But not New­ton.

In 1936, a doc­u­ment of Newton’s dat­ing from around 1662 was sold at a Sothe­by’s auc­tion and even­tu­al­ly wound up at the Fitzwilliam Muse­um in Cam­bridge, Eng­land. The Fitzwilliam Man­u­script has long been a source of fas­ci­na­tion for New­ton schol­ars. Not only does the note­book fea­ture a series of increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult math­e­mat­i­cal prob­lems but also a cryp­tic string of let­ters read­ing:

Nabed Efy­hik
Wfn­zo Cpm­fke

If you can solve this, there are some peo­ple in Cam­bridge who would like to talk to you.

But what makes the doc­u­ment real­ly inter­est­ing is how incred­i­bly per­son­al it is. New­ton rat­tles off a laun­dry list of sins he com­mit­ted dur­ing his rel­a­tive­ly short life – he was around 20 when he wrote this, a stu­dent at Cam­bridge. He splits the list into two cat­e­gories, before Whit­sun­day 1662 and after. (Whit­sun­day is, by the way, the Sun­day of the feast of Whit­sun, which is cel­e­brat­ed sev­en weeks after East­er.) Why he decid­ed on that par­tic­u­lar date to bifur­cate his time­line isn’t imme­di­ate­ly clear.

Some of the sins are rather opaque. I’m not sure what, for instance, “Mak­ing a feath­er while on Thy day” means exact­ly but it sure sounds like a long lost euphemism. Oth­er sins like “Peev­ish­ness with my moth­er” are imme­di­ate­ly relat­able as good old-fash­ioned teenaged churl­ish­ness. You can see the full list below. And you can read the full doc­u­ment over at the New­ton Project here.

Before Whit­sun­day 1662

1. Vsing the word (God) open­ly
2. Eat­ing an apple at Thy house
3. Mak­ing a feath­er while on Thy day
4. Deny­ing that I made it.
5. Mak­ing a mouse­trap on Thy day
6. Con­triv­ing of the chimes on Thy day
7. Squirt­ing water on Thy day
8. Mak­ing pies on Sun­day night
9. Swim­ming in a kim­nel on Thy day
10. Putting a pin in Iohn Keys hat on Thy day to pick him.
11. Care­less­ly hear­ing and com­mit­ting many ser­mons
12. Refus­ing to go to the close at my moth­ers com­mand.
13. Threat­ning my father and moth­er Smith to burne them and the house over them
14. Wish­ing death and hop­ing it to some
15. Strik­ing many
16. Hav­ing uncleane thoughts words and actions and dreamese.
17. Steal­ing cher­ry cobs from Eduard Stor­er
18. Deny­ing that I did so
19. Deny­ing a cross­bow to my moth­er and grand­moth­er though I knew of it
20. Set­ting my heart on mon­ey learn­ing plea­sure more than Thee
21. A relapse
22. A relapse
23. A break­ing again of my covenant renued in the Lords Sup­per.
24. Punch­ing my sis­ter
25. Rob­bing my moth­ers box of plums and sug­ar
26. Call­ing Dorothy Rose a jade
27. Glutiny in my sick­ness.
28. Peev­ish­ness with my moth­er.
29. With my sis­ter.
30. Falling out with the ser­vants
31. Divers com­mis­sions of alle my duties
32. Idle dis­course on Thy day and at oth­er times
33. Not turn­ing near­er to Thee for my affec­tions
34. Not liv­ing accord­ing to my belief
35. Not lov­ing Thee for Thy self.
36. Not lov­ing Thee for Thy good­ness to us
37. Not desir­ing Thy ordi­nances
38. Not long {long­ing} for Thee in {illeg}
39. Fear­ing man above Thee
40. Vsing unlaw­ful means to bring us out of dis­tress­es
41. Car­ing for world­ly things more than God
42. Not crav­ing a bless­ing from God on our hon­est endeav­ors.
43. Miss­ing chapel.
44. Beat­ing Arthur Stor­er.
45. Peev­ish­ness at Mas­ter Clarks for a piece of bread and but­ter.
46. Striv­ing to cheat with a brass halfe crowne.
47. Twist­ing a cord on Sun­day morn­ing
48. Read­ing the his­to­ry of the Chris­t­ian cham­pi­ons on Sun­day

Since Whit­sun­day 1662

49. Glu­tony
50. Glu­tony
51. Vsing Wil­fords tow­el to spare my own
52. Neg­li­gence at the chapel.
53. Ser­mons at Saint Marys (4)
54. Lying about a louse
55. Deny­ing my cham­ber­fel­low of the knowl­edge of him that took him for a sot.
56. Neglect­ing to pray 3
57. Help­ing Pet­tit to make his water watch at 12 of the clock on Sat­ur­day night

via JF Ptak Sci­ence Books/Pub­lic Domain Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intel­li­gent Per­son Should Read

Sir Isaac Newton’s Papers & Anno­tat­ed Prin­cip­ia Go Dig­i­tal

Neil deGrasse Tyson Deliv­ers the Great­est Sci­ence Ser­mon Ever

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

President Obama Chats with David Simon About Drugs, The Wire & Omar

Back in 2012, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, already on record as being a fan of The Wire, was asked by ESPN to name his favorite char­ac­ter on the show, to which he replied “It’s got to be Omar, right? I mean, that guy is unbe­liev­able, right?” Fast for­ward to 2015, and we find Mr. Oba­ma host­ing David Simon (the cre­ator of The Wire) at the White House, and hav­ing a frank con­ver­sa­tion about the TV show and the war on drugs, and what lessons we’ve learned along the way. Of course, the con­ver­sa­tion does­n’t end with­out Omar get­ting a men­tion … or with­out us get­ting to see Oba­ma as TV host. A sign of what’s to come after 2016?

Fol­low us on Face­book, Twit­ter, Google Plus and LinkedIn and  share intel­li­gent media with your friends. Or bet­ter yet, sign up for our dai­ly email and get a dai­ly dose of Open Cul­ture in your inbox.

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The Visionary Thought of Marshall McLuhan, Introduced and Demystified by Tom Wolfe

Mar­shall McLuhan and Tom Wolfe: both writ­ers, both astute observers of mod­ern human­i­ty, and both pub­lic fig­ures whose work has, over the years, enjoyed high fash­ion­abil­i­ty and endured high unfash­ion­abil­i­ty. You might think the con­nec­tion between them ends there. But when the 100th anniver­sary of McLuhan’s birth and the cen­ten­ni­al-cel­e­brat­ing site Mar­shall McLuhan Speaks came about, whose elo­quent intro­duc­tion to the thinker (who famous­ly declared the world a “glob­al vil­lage” where “the medi­um is the mes­sage”) got used there? Why, the man in white’s.

In the 20-minute video above, Wolfe lays out not just a pré­cis of the insights that made McLuhan “the first seer of cyber­space,” but gets into his biog­ra­phy as well: his humbly respectable ori­gins in Edmon­ton, his back­ground as a lit­er­ary schol­ar, his con­ver­sion to Catholi­cism, the begin­nings of his teach­ing career in Cam­bridge and Wis­con­sin, his “extracur­ric­u­lar gath­er­ings devot­ed to the folk­lore of indus­tri­al man,” his strug­gle to rec­on­cile his inter­est in the writ­ings of philoso­pher-pale­on­tol­o­gist Pierre Teil­hard de Chardin with his own reli­gious con­vic­tions, and the con­sid­er­able fame he accrued mak­ing pro­nounce­ments on the media in the media.

“No doubt the inter­net would have delight­ed him,” says Wolfe. “He would have seen it as a ful­fill­ment of prophe­cies he had made thir­ty years before it was born, as an instru­ment for the real­iza­tion of his dream of the mys­ti­cal uni­ty of all mankind. [Watch him pre­dict the world would be knit­ted into a glob­al vil­lage by dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy in some vin­tage video.] Here, in a spe­cif­ic, phys­i­cal, elec­tron­ic form, was the seam­less web of which he had so often spo­ken. Today thou­sands of young inter­net apos­tles are famil­iar with Mar­shall McLuhan, and are con­vinced his light shines round about them. From the edi­tors of Wired mag­a­zine to the most mis­er­able dot-com lizards of the chat room, they have made him their patron saint.”

To get an even deep­er sense of how much Wolfe has thought about McLuhan, have a look at his first annu­al Mar­shall McLuhan Lec­ture, deliv­ered at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty in 1999. And unlike many intel­lec­tu­als who only turned back to re-exam­ine McLuhan after the age of the inter­net had retroac­tive­ly val­i­dat­ed even some of his wildest-sound­ing spec­u­la­tions, Wolfe has been tuned in to McLuhan’s fre­quen­cy since way back. In 1970, the two even got togeth­er for a tele­vised chat in McLuhan’s back yard (a clip of which you can watch just above), which revealed that, for all the fas­ci­na­tion Wolfe had with McLuhan, the inter­est was mutu­al.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Has Tech­nol­o­gy Changed Us?: BBC Ani­ma­tions Answer the Ques­tion with the Help of Mar­shall McLuhan

McLuhan Said “The Medi­um Is The Mes­sage”; Two Pieces Of Media Decode the Famous Phrase

Mar­shall McLuhan: The World is a Glob­al Vil­lage

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

How Can I Know Right From Wrong? Watch Philosophy Animations on Ethics Narrated by Harry Shearer

The his­to­ry of moral phi­los­o­phy in the West hinges prin­ci­pal­ly on a hand­ful of ques­tions: Is there a God of some sort? An after­life? Free will? And, per­haps most press­ing­ly for human­ists, what exact­ly is the nature of our oblig­a­tions to oth­ers? The lat­ter ques­tion has long occu­pied philoso­phers like Immanuel Kant, whose extreme formulation—the “cat­e­gor­i­cal imperative”—flatly rules out mak­ing eth­i­cal deci­sions depen­dent upon par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tions. Kant’s famous exam­ple, one that gen­er­al­ly gets repeat­ed with a nod to God­win, involves an axe mur­der­er show­ing up at your door and ask­ing for the where­abouts of a vis­it­ing friend. In Kant’s esti­ma­tion, telling a lie in this case jus­ti­fies telling a lie at any time, for any rea­son. There­fore, it is uneth­i­cal.

In the video at the top of the post, Har­ry Shear­er nar­rates a script about Kant’s max­im writ­ten by philoso­pher Nigel War­bur­ton, with whim­si­cal illus­tra­tions pro­vid­ed by Cog­ni­tive. Part of the BBC and Open University’s “A His­to­ry of Ideas” series, the video—one of four deal­ing with moral philosophy—also explains how Kant’s approach to ethics dif­fers from those of util­i­tar­i­an­ism.

In the video above, Shear­er describes that most util­i­tar­i­an of thought exper­i­ments, the “Trol­ley Prob­lem.” As described by philoso­pher Philip­pa Foot, this sce­nario imag­ines hav­ing to sac­ri­fice the life of one for those of many. But there is a twist—the sec­ond ver­sion, which involves the added crime of phys­i­cal­ly mur­der­ing one per­son, up close and per­son­al, to save sev­er­al. An anal­o­gous but con­verse the­o­ry is that of Prince­ton philoso­pher Peter Singer (below) who pro­pos­es that our oblig­a­tions to peo­ple in per­il right in front of us equal our oblig­a­tions to those on the oth­er side of the world.

Final­ly, the last video sur­veys one of the thorni­est issues in moral philo­soph­i­cal history—the “is/ought” divide, as prob­lem­at­ic as the ancient Euthy­phro dilem­ma. How, asked David Hume, are we to deduce moral prin­ci­ples from facts about the world that have no moral dimen­sion? Par­tic­u­lar­ly when those facts are nev­er con­clu­sive, are sub­ject to revi­sion, and when new ones get uncov­ered all the time? The ques­tion intro­duces a seem­ing­ly unbridge­able chasm between facts and val­ues. Moral judg­ments found­ed on what is or isn’t “nat­ur­al” floun­der before our ter­ror of much of what nature does, and the very par­tial and fal­li­ble nature of our knowl­edge of it.

The prob­lem is as star­tling as Hume’s cri­tique of causal­i­ty, and in part caused Kant to remark that Hume had awak­ened him from a “dog­mat­ic slum­ber.” What may strike view­ers of the series is just how abstract these ques­tions and exam­ples are—how divorced from the messi­ness of real world pol­i­tics, with the excep­tion, per­haps, of Peter Singer. It may be instruc­tive that polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy forms a sep­a­rate branch in the West. While these prob­lems are cer­tain­ly dif­fi­cult enough to trou­ble the sleep of just about any thought­ful per­son, in our day-to-day lives, our deci­sion mak­ing process seems to be much messier, and much more sit­u­a­tion­al, than we’re prob­a­bly ever aware of.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

A His­to­ry of Ideas: Ani­mat­ed Videos Explain The­o­ries of Simone de Beau­voir, Edmund Burke & Oth­er Philoso­phers

How Did Every­thing Begin?: Ani­ma­tions on the Ori­gins of the Uni­verse Nar­rat­ed by X‑Files Star Gillian Ander­son

What Makes Us Human?: Chom­sky, Locke & Marx Intro­duced by New Ani­mat­ed Videos from the BBC

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness


Leo Tolstoy’s 17 “Rules of Life:” Wake at 5am, Help the Poor, & Only Two Brothel Visits Per Month

tolstoy rules 2

Many aspir­ing epic nov­el­ists sure­ly would­n’t mind writ­ing like Leo Tol­stoy. But can you write like the writer you admire with­out liv­ing like the writer you admire? Biogra­phies reveal plen­ty of facts about how the author of such immor­tal vol­umes as War and Peace and Anna Karen­i­na passed his 82 years, none more telling than that even Leo Tol­stoy strug­gled to live like Leo Tol­stoy. “I must get used to the idea, once and for all, that I am an excep­tion­al human being,” he wrote in 1853, at age 25, under­scor­ing that “I have not met one man who is moral­ly as good as I am, or ready to sac­ri­fice every­thing for his ide­al, as I am.”

Clear­ly, exces­sive mod­esty did­n’t count among Tol­stoy’s faults. Sev­en years before mak­ing that dec­la­ra­tion, he had already envi­sioned for him­self a life of virtue and indus­try, lay­ing out what he called his “rules of life,” per­haps a fore­shad­ow­ing of his search for a rig­or­ous­ly reli­gious life with­out belief in a high­er being. The web­site Tol­stoy Ther­a­py has post­ed a selec­tion of these rules, which com­mand­ed him as fol­lows:

  • Wake at five o’clock
  • Go to bed no lat­er than ten o’clock
  • Two hours per­mis­si­ble for sleep­ing dur­ing the day
  • Eat mod­er­ate­ly
  • Avoid sweet foods
  • Walk for an hour every day
  • Vis­it a broth­el only twice a month
  • Love those to whom I could be of ser­vice
  • Dis­re­gard all pub­lic opin­ion not based on rea­son
  • Only do one thing at a time
  • Dis­al­low flights of imag­i­na­tion unless nec­es­sary

To this list of pre­cepts drawn up at the dawn of his adult life, most of which would­n’t seem out of place as any of our 21st-cen­tu­ry new year’s res­o­lu­tions, Tol­stoy lat­er added these:

  • Nev­er to show emo­tion
  • Stop car­ing about oth­er peo­ple’s opin­ion of myself
  • Do good things incon­spic­u­ous­ly
  • Keep away from women
  • Sup­press lust by work­ing hard
  • Help those less for­tu­nate

Even if you haven’t read much about Tol­stoy’s life, you may sense in some of these gen­er­al prin­ci­ples evi­dence of bat­tles with par­tic­u­lar impuls­es: observe, for instance, how his twice-month­ly lim­it on broth­el vis­its becomes the much more strin­gent and much less real­is­tic for­bid­dance of women entire­ly. But per­haps his tech­nique of work­ing hard, how­ev­er well or poor­ly it sup­pressed his lust (the man did father four­teen chil­dren, after all), ben­e­fit­ed him in the end, giv­en the vast and (often lit­er­al­ly) weighty body of work he left behind.

“Between ‘rules of life’ and life itself, what a chasm!” exclaims biog­ra­ph­er Hen­ri Troy­at in Tol­stoy. But as rich with inter­est as we find books like that, we ulti­mate­ly care about writ­ers not because of how they live, but because of how they write. The young Tol­stoy knew that, too; “the pub­li­ca­tion of Child­hood and ‘The Raid’ hav­ing made him, in his own eyes, a gen­uine man of let­ters,” writes Troy­at, “he soon added no less peremp­to­ry ‘Rules of Writ­ing’ to his ‘Rules of Life’:”

  • When you crit­i­cize your work, always put your­self in the posi­tion of the most lim­it­ed read­er, who is look­ing only for enter­tain­ment in a book.
  • The most inter­est­ing books are those in which the author pre­tends to hide his own opin­ion and yet remains faith­ful to it.
  • When reread­ing and revis­ing, do not think about what should be added (no mat­ter how admirable the thoughts that come to mind) … but about how much can be tak­en away with­out dis­tort­ing the over­all mean­ing.

Then again, War and Peace has in the mod­ern day become a byword for sheer length, and few read­ers not already steeped in 19th-cen­tu­ry Russ­ian lit­er­a­ture would turn to Tol­stoy for pure enter­tain­ment. Per­haps the writer’s life implic­it­ly adds one caveat atop all the ever-stricter rules he made for him­self while liv­ing it: nobody’s per­fect.

via Tol­stoy Ther­a­py

Relat­ed con­tent:

Leo Tol­stoy Cre­ates a List of the 50+ Books That Influ­enced Him Most (1891)

Rare Record­ing: Leo Tol­stoy Reads From His Last Major Work in Four Lan­guages, 1909

Vin­tage Footage of Leo Tol­stoy: Video Cap­tures the Great Nov­el­ist Dur­ing His Final Days

The Com­plete Works of Leo Tol­stoy Online: New Archive Will Present 90 Vol­umes for Free (in Russ­ian)

Leo Tolstoy’s Fam­i­ly Recipe for Mac­a­roni and Cheese

Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writ­ers

Ray Brad­bury Offers 12 Essen­tial Writ­ing Tips and Explains Why Lit­er­a­ture Saves Civ­i­liza­tion

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Download Images From Rad American Women A‑Z: A New Picture Book on the History of Feminism

patti smith letter

The next time sto­ry hour rolls around, you can give a mouse a cook­ie or you can awak­en pre-read­ers (and your­self) to some key fig­ures in wom­en’s his­to­ry. 26 of them, to be pre­cise. It’s no acci­dent that that num­ber cor­re­sponds to the exact num­ber of let­ters in the alpha­bet.

Author Kate Schatz and illus­tra­tor Miri­am Klein Stahl active­ly sought to include women of col­or and a vari­ety of sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tions when choos­ing whom to fea­ture in Rad Amer­i­can Women A To Z, a pro­gres­sive fem­i­nist text cum ABC primer. (Illus­tra­tions from the book, like the ones fea­tured on this page, can be down­loaded here for free.)

odetta letter

Hope­ful­ly Glo­ria Steinem was not too upset to learn that G is for the Grimke sis­ters. Actu­al­ly, I sus­pect that the sec­ond wave’s most rec­og­niz­able super­star would be pleased if read­ers are moved to edu­cate them­selves as to some of the book’s more obscure ref­er­ences.

ursula letter

B is for Bil­lie Jean King who whooped male chau­vin­ist pig Bob­by Rig­gs on the court in 1973’s Bat­tle of the Sex­es. I remem­ber her! A Bil­lie and Bob­by-themed pump­kin took top hon­ors in my school’s Hal­loween carv­ing con­test that year.

It’s fun­ny how when a woman does some­thing they always think we only affect half of the pop­u­la­tion, and peo­ple will come up to me and say thanks for what you did for wom­en’s ten­nis all the time, and I know they’d nev­er say that to a guy.

E is for civ­il rights activist Ella Bak­er, a sec­re­tary who rose through the ranks of the NAACP to become direc­tor of branch­es. She rec­og­nized the press often over­looked her role, as did his­to­ry.

You did­n’t see me on tele­vi­sion, you did­n’t see news sto­ries about me. The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put togeth­er pieces out of which I hoped orga­ni­za­tion might come. My the­o­ry is, strong peo­ple don’t need strong lead­ers.

J is for Jovi­ta Idar, edu­ca­tor and cofounder of the Mex­i­can Fem­i­nist League.

Mex­i­can chil­dren in Texas need an edu­ca­tion…. There is no oth­er means to do it but our­selves, so that we are not deval­ued and humil­i­at­ed by the strangers who sur­round us. 

God­moth­er of Punk Pat­ti Smith, author Ursu­la K. La Guin, and Odet­ta, leg­endary blues singer and “Voice of the Civ­il Rights Move­ment,” are among the mar­quee names to be can­on­ized. See their illus­tra­tions above.

To get all 26 illus­tra­tions in a down­load­able for­mat, click here. To order your own copy of the book, go here.

via Good

Relat­ed Con­tent:

74 Essen­tial Books for Your Per­son­al Library: A List Curat­ed by Female Cre­atives

Simone de Beau­voir Explains “Why I’m a Fem­i­nist” in a Rare TV Inter­view (1975)

Chrissie Hynde’s 10 Pieces of Advice for “Chick Rock­ers” (1994)

Simone de Beau­voir Tells Studs Terkel How She Became an Intel­lec­tu­al and Fem­i­nist (1960)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

George Mason Students Create Revolutionary Fire Extinguisher That Uses Sound Waves to Blow Out Fires

If you haven’t seen it already: two George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty engi­neer­ing stu­dents — Viet Tran and Seth Robert­son — have cre­at­ed a poten­tial­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ary device, a new-fan­gled fire extin­guish­er, that uses low-fre­quen­cy sound waves to snuff out fires. Accord­ing to Tech­Ex­plore, Tran (a com­put­er engi­neer­ing major) and Seth Robert­son (dou­ble e major) “start­ed with the sim­ple idea that sound waves are also mechan­i­cal or  (due to the back and forth motion of the medi­um in which they pass through), which can cause an impact on objects.” Through tri­al and error, the stu­dents fig­ured out that ultra-high fre­quen­cies did­n’t do very much, but low­er fre­quen­cies (in the 30 to 60 Hertz range) can blow a small fire right out. Just watch above.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Com­put­er Sci­ence Cours­es

Free Online Engi­neer­ing Cours­es

Watch Leonar­do da Vinci’s Musi­cal Inven­tion, the Vio­la Organ­ista, Being Played for the Very First Time

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