This post is by Carolyn Bennett, the 2018-2019 Library of Congress Teacher in Residence.
As I began to reflect on my year as Teacher-in-Residence, I found myself thinking about a great number of people who have taught me valuable lessons this year. Many such individuals work here at the Library. I’ll thank them personally. There are others who inhabit this Library who have shared their wisdom with me less directly. Don your headphones, turn up your sound, and enjoy a brief concert of gratitude. Here, I’d like to say thank you to some people that have spurred me toward personal and professional growth this year. Click on each hyperlinked name to hear from the individual.
- Lowell Mason, who paved the way.
- Bessie Smith, who wasn’t afraid to explore complex narratives.
- Dalia Soto, who taught me that fun transcends language barriers.
- Little Emma, who taught me to listen for the voice of the historically voiceless.
- R. Murray, who assured me that political hyperbole is nothing new.
- Jean Ritchie, who reminded me of the joy in sharing a musical legacy with the next generation.
Liz Carroll, a teen All-Ireland fiddle champion and Chicago resident, who proved that geographic location can’t limit ambition.
- Nathaniel Dett, explorer of the creative frontiers of musical tradition.
- Marian Anderson, who inspiringly rose above obstacles in pursuit of artistic expression.
- Margie Mattox, who, like many high school students, struggled with self-confidence – but nevertheless, raised her voice.
- Eugenie M. Raye-Smith, with whom I “Sing of Woman Free.”
- Bus Ezell, who challenged me to consider how patriotism demands critical thinking.
- Thoinot Arbeau, for showing me how to party like it’s 1599.
- Jim Thorpe, who conquered much more than the gridiron.
- Adelpha Pollato, who voiced her community’s nostalgia with simplicity and grace.
Krystof Penderecki, who showed me that music doesn’t have to be black-and-white - even in bleak times.
- Henry Truvillion, whose music bridged his past, his future, and listeners like me.
- Doris McMurray, Jamila Jones, and Bernice Johnson Reagon, for shining their lights.
- Generations of young buglers, for whom music was a weighty responsibility.
- Celina Lewis, who despite her own misgivings, shared something of deep significance.
- Amelia Simmons, for gracing my holiday table.
In all my discoveries this year, I realized that the true treasure was the ability to connect with the perspectives and lives of others. History is constructed of minute points of contact between individuals: Conversations, songs, letters, created within the context of everyday life. It’s been an honor to introduce professionals and students to some of these voices through workshops, webinars, and conferences during my tenure at the Library. I can’t wait to return to my classroom and acquaint my students with these historic voices of wisdom.