Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Marian Anderson, 1897-1993: Her Voice Became Famous Around the World


I'm Shirley Griffith.


And I'm Steve Ember with People in America in VOA Special English. Today, we begin the first of two reports about singer Marian Anderson.

(MUSIC: "Wide River")

Marian Anderson performing at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939

A tall black woman is singing in a concert hall. Her eyes are closed. She is not looking at the crowd of people sitting silently before her. But she feels their presence. She tries to make the music touch their minds and hearts. Her deep, powerful voice reaches out to all parts of the concert hall.

She finishes, and there is a long silence. Then the people clap and cheer. They call out for another song. And they call out her name: Marian Anderson.


Marian Anderson was an American. But she found success in Europe before finding it in her own country. She was born in eighteen ninety-seven in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She grew up surrounded by poverty. Yet she remembered her family as a happy one.

The Andersons were deeply religious and involved in their church. It was in church where Marian first began to sing in public. She was six years old. The songs she sang were spirituals -- the religious songs that African Americans sang as slaves. The songs are about suffering, and the hope of a better life after death.


Marian's interest in music grew as she got older. When she was eight, her father brought home an old piano. She never thought she would be able to play it. One day, however, she heard piano music coming from an open window. She looked inside the house. There she saw a woman, playing ever so beautifully. Her skin was dark, like Marian's. She knew then that if another black woman could play the piano so could she.

The Andersons were too poor to pay someone to teach Marian. So she was able to teach herself only a few simple songs. Her voice remained her most important musical instrument.


Marian's father died when she was ten years old. She had to go to work to help support her family. She continued to sing at church on Sunday. Soon, other churches heard of the young girl with the beautiful, deep voice. They invited her to sing for them. Marian accepted. She began singing in African-American churches all over Philadelphia.


At about this time, several people told Marian that she should have a voice teacher. They told her that a beautiful voice can be destroyed if it is not trained. Marian said she always sang naturally, without any thought of how she did it. She realized that she would need some training.

The people in Marian's church were very proud of her. They wanted to help, even though many of them were as poor as the Anderson family. They collected enough money to pay for a few voice lessons. She went to a local music school in Philadelphia.


A group of girls was waiting to enter the school. Before Marian could enter, however, a young white woman who worked in the school told her to go away. "We do not take black people here," she said. Marian was shocked. Never before had anyone insulted her because of her race. Years later, she remembered her feelings:


"I just looked at the woman. I was shocked that such words could come from someone so young. I did not understand how a person surrounded by the joy of music could not have some of its sense and beauty inside her. It was as if a cold and horrible hand had touched me. I had never heard such brutal words. My skin was different, but not my feelings. "


Marian Anderson was to hear those hateful words many times again during her life.

(MUSIC: "Wide River")


Marian Anderson continued to sing at churches and special gatherings. Her singing became more widely known. But she still felt that her voice needed training. Finally, a friend promised to help her meet a well-known voice teacher. The teacher was Giuseppe Boghetti. Only the best singers in Philadelphia were his students.

Marian went to see Mister Boghetti. She was nervous, because she wanted to please him. He told her that he already had too many students. He made it clear that he would listen only because he knew her friend. Marian's nervousness disappeared when she began to sing. The song she chose was one she knew best. It was called "Deep River".

(MUSIC: "Deep River")


Mister Boghetti sat quietly when Marian finished. There were tears in his eyes. Finally, he said: "You will start training at once. I will need just two years with you. After that, you will be able to go anywhere and sing for anybody. "

Marian Anderson was very happy. Her friends agreed to help pay for her lessons. Mister Boghetti taught her how to control and direct her voice. He also taught her how to breathe correctly. Marian learned to sing classical music -- the songs of the great European composers.

(MUSIC: "Die Forelle")


Marian Anderson grew to love opera, because it joined singing and acting. But Mister Boghetti advised her not to choose opera as a way to make a living. He knew that black singers in America were not permitted to sing with white opera groups. Instead, he told her she could be successful by singing in concert theaters. She followed his advice.

In nineteen twenty-four, Anderson sang in New York City for the first time. In those days, a singer had to be recognized in New York to be successful everywhere else. She sang in one of the most important concert theaters in the city -- Town Hall.

She sang some spirituals and some classical music. She wanted to make sure she would be judged as a singer who happened to be black -- not as a black singer.

(MUSIC: "Ch'io mai vi possa")


Marian Anderson's town hall concert was not successful. Few people came to listen. The next day, newspapers sharply criticized her. They said she sang the European music without feeling or understanding. Anderson was crushed. She decided to return to Philadelphia. She thought about never singing again.

(MUSIC: "Heav'n Heav'n")


This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Shirley Griffith.


And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for People in America in VOA Special English. We continue the story of Marian Anderson and how she went on to gain great success as a singer.


1. Marian Anderson began to sing in public _______________ .
a: in Town Hall, New York City.
b: in her church
c: in Europe
d: in an opera house

2. Marian Anderson's church helped her _____________________ .
a: learn the piano
b: pay for voice instruction
c: sing in a Philadelphia choir
d: rise out of poverty

3. A _____________________ inspired Marian Anderson to play the piano her father bought for her.
a: voice teacher
b: a member of her church
c: a next door neighbor
d: a piano repair person

4. The first type of music that Marian Anderson sang was a _______________ .
a: jazz song
b: ragtime song
c: blues song
d: spiritual

5. When a white woman at the voice class rejected Marian because of her race, Marian didn't understand how anybody ________________ could be racist.
a: who lived in the United States
b: who lived in the South
c: who knew the joy of music
d: who studied African-American history

6. Philadelphia's best voice teacher agreed to teach Marian Anderson because _____________________ .
a: he was moved to tears when she sang "Deep River."
b: he was a member of Marian's church
c: he was also African-American.
d: she agreed to pay him a lot of money

7. During Anderson's childhood, her family was ____________________ .
a: very involved in music
b: very involved in education
c: very involved in their church
d: very involved with advancing Marian's singing career

8. Giuseppe Boghetti didn't teach Marian Anderson how to ____________________.
a: pursue an opera career
b: direct and control her voice
c: breathe correctly
d: sing classical music

9. Marian Anderson's first appearance in New York City's Town Hall was _______________ .
a: very successful
b: praised in all the newspapers
c: before a full theater
d: not successful

10. Marian Anderson wanted to be judged primarily as __________________ .
a: a singer who happened to be African-American
b: an African American singer
c: a singer of spirituals
d: a singer of European music

Marian Anderson sings: "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."

He's got the whole world in His hands,
He's got the big round world in His hands,
He's got the wide world in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

He's got the wind and the rain in His hands,
He's got the moon and the stars in His hands,
He's got the wind and the rain in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

He's got the gamblin man right in His hands,
He's got the lion man right in His hands,
He's got the crapshoot man in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

He's got the little bits of baby in His hands,
He's got the little bits of baby in His hands,
He's got the little bits of baby in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

He's got you and me brother in His hands,
He's got you and me sister in His hands,
He's got you and me brother in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

He's got everybody in His hands,
He's got everybody in His hands,
He's got everybody here right in His hand,
He's got the whole world in His hands

Marion Anderson, Great African American Opera Star: Part Two

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"Cesar Chavez" The Voice of Farm Workers, from Voice of America


I’m Nicole Nichols.


And I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today we tell about one of the great labor activists, Cesar Chavez. He organized the first successful farm workers union in American history.



Cesar Chavez was born on a small farm near Yuma, Arizona in nineteen twenty-seven. In the late nineteenth century, Cesario Chavez, Cesar’s grandfather, had started the Chavez family farm after escaping slavery on a Mexican farm. Cesar Chavez spent his earliest years on this farm. When he was ten years old, however, the economic conditions of the Great Depression forced his parents to give up the family farm. He then became a migrant farm worker along with the rest of his family.

The Chavez family joined thousands of other farm workers who traveled around the state of California to harvest crops for farm owners. They traveled from place to place to harvest grapes, lettuce, beets and many other crops. They worked very hard and received little pay. These migrant workers had no permanent homes. They lived in dirty, crowded camps. They had no bathrooms, electricity or running water. Like the Chavez family, most of them came from Mexico.


Because his family traveled from place to place, Cesar Chavez attended more than thirty schools as a child. He learned to read and write from his grandmother.

Mama Tella also taught him about the Catholic religion. Religion later became an important tool for Mister Chavez. He used religion to organize Mexican farm workers who were Catholic.

Cesar’s mother, Juana, taught him much about the importance of leading a non-violent life. His mother was one of the greatest influences on his use of non-violent methods to organize farm workers. His other influences were the Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi and American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Junior.

Mister Chavez said his real education began when he met the Catholic leader Father Donald McDonnell. Cesar Chavez learned about the economics of farm workers from the priest. He also learned about Gandhi’s nonviolent political actions as well as those of other great nonviolent leaders throughout history.


In nineteen forty-eight, Mister Chavez married Helena Fabela whom he met while working in the grape fields in central California. They settled in Sal Si Puedes. Later, while Mister Chavez worked for little or no money to organize farm workers, his wife harvested crops. In order to support their eight children, she worked under the same bad conditions that Mister Chavez was fighting against.

There were other important influences in his life. In nineteen fifty-two, Mister Chavez met Fred Ross, an organizer with a workers’ rights group called the Community Service Organization. Mister Chavez called Mister Ross the best organizer he ever met. Mister Ross explained how poor people could build power. Mister Chavez agreed to work for the Community Service Organization.


Mister Chavez worked for the organization for about ten years. During that time, he helped more than five hundred thousand Latino citizens to vote. He also gained old-age retirement money for fifty thousand Mexican immigrants. He served as the organization’s national director.

However, in nineteen sixty-two, he left the organization. He wanted to do more to help farm workers receive higher pay and better working conditions. He left his well paid job to start organizing farm workers into a union.

Mister Chavez’s work affected many people. For example, the father of Mexican-American musician Zack de la Rocha spent time working as an art director for Mister Chavez. Much of the political music of de la Rocha’s group, Rage Against the Machine, was about workers’ rights, like this song, “Bomb Track.”



It took Mister Chavez and Delores Huerta, another former CSO organizer, three years of hard work to build the National Farm Workers Association. Mister Chavez traveled from town to town to bring in new members. He held small meetings at workers’ houses to build support.The California-based organization held its first strike in nineteen sixty-five.The National Farm Workers Association became nationally known when it supported a strike against grape growers.The group joined a strike organized by Filipino workers of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee.

Mister Chavez knew that those who acted non-violently against violent action would gain popular support. Mister Chavez asked that the strikers remain non-violent even though the farm owners and their supporters sometimes used violence.


One month after the strike began, the group began to boycott grapes. They decided to direct their action against one company, the Schenley Corporation.The union followed grape trucks and demonstrated wherever the grapes were taken. Later, union members and Filipino workers began a twenty-five day march from Delano to Sacramento, California, to gain support for the boycott.

Schenley later signed a labor agreement with the National Farm Workers Association.It was the first such agreement between farm workers and growers in the United States.


The union then began demonstrating against the Di Giorgio Corporation. It was one of the largest grape growers in California. Di Giorgio held a vote and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters was chosen to represent the farm workers. But an investigation proved that the company and the Teamsters had cheated in the election.

Another vote was held. Cesar Chavez agreed to combine his union with another and the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee was formed. The farm workers elected Mister Chavez’s union to represent them.Di Giorgio soon signed a labor agreement with the union.


Mister Chavez often went for long periods without food to protest the conditions under which the farm workers were forced to do their jobs. Mister Chavez went on his first hunger strike, or fast, in nineteen sixty-eight. He did not eat for twenty-five days. He was called a hero for taking this kind of personal action to support the farm workers.

The union then took action against Giumarra Vineyards Corporation, the largest producer of table grapes in the United States. It organized a boycott against the company’s products.The boycott extended to all California table grapes. By nineteen seventy, the company agreed to sign contracts. A number of other growers did as well. By this time the grape strike had lasted for five years. It was the longest strike and boycott in United States labor history. Cesar Chavez had built a nationwide coalition of support among unions, church groups, students, minorities and other Americans.


By nineteen seventy-three, the union had changed its name to the United Farm Workers of America. It called for another national boycott against grape growers as relations again became tense. By nineteen seventy-five, a reported seventeen million Americans were refusing to buy non-union grapes.The union’s hard work helped in getting the Agricultural Labor Relations Act passed in California, under Governor Jerry Brown. It was the first law in the nation that protected the rights of farm workers.



By the nineteen eighties, the UFW had helped tens of thousands of farm workers gain higher pay, medical care, retirement benefits and better working and living conditions.But relations between workers and growers in California worsened under a new state government. Boycotts were again organized against the grape industry.In nineteen eighty-eight, at the age of sixty-one, Mister Chavez began another hunger strike. That fast lasted for thirty-six days and almost killed him. The fast was to protest the poisoning of grape workers and their children by the dangerous chemicals growers used to kill insects.

In nineteen eighty-four Cesar Chavez made this speech, predicting the future success of his efforts for Latinos.

CESAR CHAVEZ: “Like the other immigrant groups, the day will come when we win the economic and political rewards which are in keeping with our numbers in society. The day will come when the politicians will do the right thing for our people out of political necessity and not out of charity or idealism.”


Cesar Chavez died in nineteen ninety-three at the age of sixty-six. More than forty thousand people attended his funeral.

A year later, President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.

The United Farm Workers Union still fights for the rights of farm workers throughout the United States. Many schools, streets, parks, libraries and other public buildings have been named after Cesar Chavez. The great labor leader always believed in the words “Si se puede”: It can be done.



This Special English Program was written and produced by Robert Brumfield. I’m Steve Ember.


And I’m Nicole Nichols. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.


1. Three important influences on Cesar Chavez's non-violent methods were______ .
a. Fred Ross, Zack de la Rocha, Helena Fabela
b. his mother, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin L. King
c. his wife, Father McDonnell, his father
d. Jerry Brown, Nichol Nichols, Dolores Huerta

2. Cesar Chavez spent his first few years on a farm in ______________ .
a. Arizona
b. Mexico
c. California
d. Phoenix

3. The Chavez family became migrant farm workers because of the ____________ .
a. immigration laws
b. Great Depression
c. poor schools in Arizona
d. drought in Mexico

4. The living conditions of migrant workers in California were ______________ .
a. lucrative
b. comfortable
c. very bad
d. like American suburbs

5. In 1962, Chavez left the Community Service Organization because he wanted to help farm workers ______________ .
a. get better pensions
b. register to vote
c. form a union
d. become more religious

6. One tactic the farm workers did not use was ______________ .
a. boycotts
b. demonstrations
c. blocking vehicles
d. hunger strikes

7. The first negotiated agreement between farm workers and owners was with the ______________ .
a. Schenley Corporation
b. Di Giorgio Corporation
c. Giamarra Vineyards
d. The Teamsters

8. As the result of the United Farm Workers hard work, The Agricultural Labor Relations Act passed in California under Governor Jerry Brown. It was the first law in the nation that protected the rights of ___________ .
a. immigrants
b. farm workers
c. growers
d. law makers

9. Another name for this selection could be _______________ .
a. "The Use of Non Violence in Protests"
b. "The Great Organizer of Farm Workers"
c. "The Effect of the Table Grape Boycott"
d. "The Working Conditions of Farm Workers"

10. This article is mainly about _________________ .
a. the life and influence of a great labor leader
b. the effect of hunger strikes on labor relations
c. the history of non violent protest in Calfornia
d. the influence of Martin L. King on farm workers

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

At a Hotel. Dictation Practice.

Listen to the recording. Write the sentences that you hear. Then, click on the box under the sentence you wrote to check your writing. Dictation practice is challenging and fun!

Asking for and Giving Directions. Dictation Practice.

Listen to the recording. Write the sentences that you hear. Then, click on the box under the sentence you wrote to check your writing. Dictation practice is challenging and fun!