Once again, recent history is coming to Western New York, through the efforts of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown.
Award-winning author Phillip Hoose will be present at the Jackson Center, Feb. 28 and 29. Hoose's most recent publication is the book ''Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice,'' which describes the life of Ms. Colvin, whose life efforts compare to those of the more famous Rosa Parks, in setting off the American Civil Rights Movement.
Since the first days of 2012, the Jackson Center has been partnering with the Law, Youth and Citizenship Program of the New York State Bar Association to sponsor an essay contest based on Hoose's book. On Feb. 28 at 6 p.m., the Jackson Center will hold a pasta dinner in the large dining room, beneath the Carl Cappa Theater, which will honor the author and the winners or the contest. Prizes will be distributed at the dinner.
Claudette Colvin, who as a teenager in the 1950s became a heroine of the American Civil Rights Movement, is the subject of a biography written by author Phillip M. Hoose, who will be present in Jamestown Feb. 28 and 29, to be honored by the Young Reader Program of the Robert H. Jackson Center.
Immediately after the dinner, at 7 p.m., the author will make a public presentation in the Cappa Theater, to which the public is invited.
Members of the public wishing to attend the dinner may do so, until the capacity is reached. The cost is $10. Reservations may be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phoning 483-6646. There is no charge for the post-dinner presentation.
Hoose will make an hourlong presentation on Feb. 29 at 10 a.m. to which the public is invited, without charge. I hope you'll attend if you can.
Allow me to share with you what I've learned about Hoose, and then my reactions to two of his books:
Hoose is an alumnus of Indiana University and of Yale University. He was born in Portland, Maine, in 1947. He is known as a writer of books, essays, songs, stories and articles.
''Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice'' bears the date 2009, and among the honors the book has earned have been the National Book Award and the Jane Addams Children's Book Award; it is a Newberry Honor Book, and it won a listing on the Publisher's Weekly list of Best Books of 2009.
Although he began writing books for adults, Hoose decided to begin writing books aimed at young readers, when his two daughters were born. Although ''Claudette Colvin'' is certainly interesting to, and readable by, adults, its writing is styled for the skills and interests of young readers.
In addition to his writing, Hoose is a performing musician, performing with the band Chipped Enamel. He was a founder of the Children's Music Network.
Hoose is married to artist Sandi Ste. George, and they are the parents of two adult daughters.
ABOUT THE BOOK
I think a great many Americans have failed to understand the significance of the Civil Rights Movement. Although I didn't often teach American History in my teaching career, when I did, or when the subject came up, I tended to find that young people thought of it as a period when African Americans gradually insisted upon being treated equally under the law.
Many thought of the movement as taking place long ago - not long after the Civil War, often times - and a great many thought of it as something which happened in the former states of the Confederacy, deep in the South. When I told them that I can clearly remember going into department stores in Pittsburgh, where I grew up, and seeing different restrooms for blacks and whites and different drinking fountains, many clearly wondered if I was just making that up for effect. A few even accused me of it.
Many people have at least heard of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Many people can tell you that before 1955, in the capital of the state of Alabama - and in much of the American South - segregation laws required that the front rows of seats were reserved for white passengers and African American passengers could sit behind the 10th row, but if the seats for whites filled up, the driver had the authority to order African American passengers toward the rear to give up their seats for newly arriving white passengers, even if the new passengers were healthy young men and the African American passengers were elderly, sick or handicapped.
In December 1955, Rosa Parks, a quiet, neatly dressed woman in her 40s, was ordered to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger and refused to do so. Ms. Parks refused to do so, so the driver flagged a police car and had her arrested.
Her arrest inspired African Americans to boycott the public bus lines, volunteering their cars to take each other to and from work or walking for many miles. One of the leaders of the boycott was a young minister of a Montgomery Baptist Church, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Most people believe that eventually the loss of income from African American riders forced the bus line to do away with segregation. Believe me, that story is just the very tip of the iceberg.
Most modern people don't know that in Montgomery, African American passengers were required to get aboard the bus in the front and pay their fare, then get back off and walk to the bus's back door, to re-enter in their own section. This was done so that the black passengers didn't accidentally brush against white passengers on their way to the back of the bus.
If you think about it, for a moment, it won't surprise you that certain drivers got a kick out of taking passengers' fares, then driving away while the person was walking along the sidewalk to enter the back door.
Fares were the same, regardless of the race of the passenger, so African Americans paid the same for inferior service.
Many people had tried to disobey the cruel and unfair segregationist laws before Ms. Parks. These included Lizzy Jennings, Homer Plessy, Irene Morgan and Sarah Louise Keyes. Just nine months earlier, on the exact same bus line, they included a 15-year-old girl named Claudette Colvin.
Ms. Colvin was grabbed by her wrists by two policemen, and pulled out of her seat, knocking her school books to the floor. She was handcuffed and pushed into the back seat of a police car. According to 15 witnesses, she was brutally kicked by one officer, who later charged her with having kicked him.
The atmosphere in those days is almost impossible to reconcile with the ideals on which our nation was founded. Another bus passenger who failed to obey orders to the back of the bus was shot to death, although unarmed and not belligerent. The same year as the incident, a 15-year-old boy named Emmett Till whistled at a white clerk in a department store and said ''Bye, baby.''
He was kidnapped, tortured, mutilated, murdered and his body was thrown into a swamp, wrapped in barbed wire.
The amount of courage involved for this young girl to do what she did is truly mind numbing.
Further, segregation wasn't a bus company policy which could be changed because income had been reduced. It was a state law. Claudette was one of four plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama. The suit was called Browder vs. Gale, and it was the authority of the courts, not an economic decision, which began the move to end segregation on the buses.
Efforts were made to threaten and scare away parties to the suit, yet Ms. Colvin's courage didn't fail here, even when lawyers and ministers supporting her suit were assaulted, had bombs planted in their homes or their churches, and similar events.
Curiously, although Rosa Parks was treated as something of a hero for her efforts, Claudette Colvin was shunned, bullied by her own school mates, ridiculed and laughed at. Why, they wondered, did she have to stir up trouble?
The book about Ms. Colvin's life and ordeal is cleanly written. The vocabulary is diverse and colorful, although not so demanding as to make an difficult effort at reading necessary. The book has 124 pages in paperbound edition, on roughly half of which are photos of the people and events being described, or black boxes providing additional information about the people and the circumstances in the book.
There is extensive documentation of the material.
The Colvin book was inspired by an earlier book by Hoose. Published in 2001, its title is ''We Were There, Too!'' and it is a series of short biographical essays about children and young adults who have taken major roles in the events of history. Originally, Claudette Colvin's was only one of the 67 stories told in the book, lasting only four pages, until Hoose decided there was so much more of her story to tell, he wrote the full book about her in 2009.
The rest of the biographies in the earlier book range from a 12-year-old Spanish boy named Diego Bermudez, who served as a cabin boy aboard Christopher Columbus's flag ship, the Santa Maria, to Ryan White, a 13-year-old boy who was one of the first known victims of AIDS in the United States.
White's story, in which not only did he suffer from his illness, he was persecuted, reviled and sometimes attacked by adults who somehow thought that having the disease - even though he had acquired it through a blood transfusion, received because he suffered from a blood clotting problem - meant that he was evil, or cursed by God, or that they could catch it by touching him or eating off a dish he had used, even if it had been washed between uses.
Phillip Hoose will be in our community Feb. 28 and 29, and we have the opportunity to learn about him and especially about his writing of the Colvin book. I hope you'll take advantage of a rare and precious opportunity.
The Jamestown Concert Assn. announces a change in the date for an upcoming concert.
The performance at St. Luke's Episcopal Church by area native Josh Stafford has been rescheduled for March 16 at 8 p.m. The popular young organist has risen to the top of his field, having graduated from the Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia and now a post-graduate student in the Music School of Yale University. His performing has been celebrated by audiences and music critics alike, throughout the United States and abroad.
Season ticket holders will be admitted to the newly scheduled concert without additional charge. Tickets bought for the previous date will be fully honored. New ticket sales will be available at the door of the concert, until the beautiful church auditorium is filled.
Grants are available from the United Arts appeal to organizations in Chautauqua County and to artists in all disciplines who have been living in the county for at least one year, including writers, choreographers, filmmakers, composers, performance artists, and other similar areas. Organizations applying for grants must have non-profit status, and may include municipalities, churches, libraries, museums, etc.
Applications are accepted by mail only, and must be postmarked by March 15.
In addition to these annual grants, the UAA, substantial operating support is given to the appeal's eight member organizations: the Chautauqua Region Youth Ballet, the Community Music Project, the 1891 Fredonia Opera House, Infinity Performing and Visual Arts, the Jamestown Concert Assn., the Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown, the Reg Lenna Civic Center, and the Western New York Chamber Orchestra.
For additional information about the UAA or for specific information about applying for one of their grants, either phone 484-7329 or visit their web site at www.unitedartsappeal.org.
Three of the artists from the Western New York Chapter of the Women Create Art Organization will present a salon connected to their exhibit which opened Feb. 11 at the 3rd on 3rd Gallery, in Jamestown, on Wednesday at the gallery, between 7 p.m and 9 p.m.
Tara Eastman, Catherine Panebianco and Debra Eck will make brief presentations about their work and will answer questions from the public. Additional salons with artists from the exhibit will be held March 7 and 21 in the gallery. There is no admission charge to any of the salons, although donations will be gratefully accepted.
For additional information about the exhibit or about the related salons, phone Len Barry at the Arts Council for Chautauqua County, at 664-2465, ext. 227.