Storytelling and Songwriting: Making Connections through Primary Sources

In July 2014, when Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced that Billy Joel would receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, he described Joel as being, “a storyteller of the highest order.”

Talented songwriters can be great storytellers! Not only do their songs often include elements of a short story, but they do so in ways that listeners can easily imagine and relate to.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Fugitive Slave Act

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was widely influential when it was published in 1852. The Library’s “Sources and Strategies” article in the May 2014 issue of Social Education, the journal of NCSS, discusses the influence of the novel. Perhaps just as important as its effect, however, was Stowe’s original impetus for writing it.

Kate DiCamillo: Stories Connect Us

The role of the Ambassador is to raise “national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.” DiCamillo, the fourth to hold this position, has chosen “Stories Connect Us” as her theme, saying “When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see each other.”

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn: Controversy at the Heart of a Classic

The book has also appeared on the AP Literature and Composition test fifteen times between 1980 and 2013. Despite the controversies, the novel has remained a staple in high school literature study because teachers seek to engage students with texts that provoke discussion and questions. Primary sources from the Library of Congress can help deepen students’ thinking around the issues central to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and other literary works.

Soldiers’ Poems of World War I in Newspapers: Personal Responses in Public Media

How can you share your response to a major world event? In the 19th and early 20th centuries, you might have put your thoughts down in a poem and sent it to a newspaper. The 1918 entry of the United States into World War I triggered an especially dramatic outpouring of these personal responses in verse.