History

Cleopatra: A Life

CleopatraForget what you know about Cleopatra - she was neither Egyptian, nor did she commit suicide with a live snake (though it remains a tenaciously romantic symbol) - and discover a much more complicated and interesting person. She was not the beauty as Elizabeth Taylor would make us believe, but was able to charm two of the most powerful men in history, and was lucky enough to bear sons by both. Stacy Schiff argues in this new remarkably readable biography, Cleopatra: A Life, that her death marked the end of an empire, the end of a dynasty and the end of ancient history. Read more »

Ruth and the Green Book


When I got my first car, I couldn't wait to take a road trip of my own. I'd spent plenty of time in the "wayback" of the family station wagon as a kid attempting to read while my Dad switched the radio back and forth from baseball broadcasts to classical music stations. Now I'd be in the driver's seat and could choose what to listen to and when and where to stop for a rest break! The road atlas was my guide as I set off on my own from Chicago to visit my brother in Pennsylvania.

When Ruth and her family set off in the early 1950s on a road trip from Chicago to Alabama, they needed something in addition to a road map to guide their trip. They needed "The Green Book." "The Green Book," author Calvin Alexander Ramsey explains in his picturebook Ruth and the Green Book was developed in 1936 by a postman named Victor H. Green to help black people who were traveling. The book listed by city all the restaurants, hotels, gas stations and businesses that would serve African Americans during the era of "Jim Crow" laws when many establishments, especially in the South, refused to admit blacks.

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Teenaged Freedom Fighter


Lafayette and the American Revolution by Russell Freedman tells the fascinating story of a young man who helped our nation gain its independence in the Revolutionary War. Orphaned at twelve, Gilbert de Motier, marquis de Lafayette was one of the wealthiest young aristocrats in France. Married at sixteen, he was already a father by the age of nineteen when he left France to aid the American revolutionaries in their struggle to win freedom from the British king.

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Through My Eyes

Fifty years ago, it fell to a little girl named Ruby to be the first black person to attend William Frantz Public School in New Orleans, Louisiana. It's normal now for people of all skin colors to go to school together, but sadly, in 1960, there were still many ignorant people who thought that white-skinned people were better than others and should not have to share their schools. Even after federal courts ordered that public schools be integrated, some states, including Louisiana, objected. It was a dangerous time for African Americans in the United States, especially in the south. Some of the white people who believed black people should remain separate from white people did hateful or even violent things.

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Exploring the Titanic


Robert Ballard is my hero. Dr. Ballard is a scientist, inventor, and a deep-sea explorer. He is most famous for discovering the wreck of the Titanic, 12,460 feet beneath the sea. The Titanic was the largest ship ever built in her time. She was as tall as an eleven story building and almost four city blocks long. The unique design of her hull was supposed to make her unsinkable, but in the middle of her first voyage the huge ship struck an iceberg and sank in the dark, icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. Only 705 of the Titanic's 2,223 passengers and crew survived. Ever since the Titanic sank, people have been fascinated with the story and many have wondered about the location of the monster ship on the ocean floor.

Seventy-four years later, Bob Ballard led a team of scientists in a mission to discover the lost Titanic. Using Argo, the deep sea underwater robot craft Dr. Ballard developed, tethered to a research vessel called the Knorr, the team explored the region of the ocean where the ship went down. They tried for weeks to find the Titanic, but without any luck. Then Dr. Ballard thought of a new way to search. He knew that when things fall in deep water, they leave a long tail of debris, like a comet. He hoped that they might find a trail of wreckage from the ship that would lead them to the Titanic. He was right! With only days left to complete their mission, the team discovered a line of man-made objects that led them directly to the Titanic.
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