What the November 2020 Create Challenge Is All About

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What the November 2020 Create Challenge Is All About

The Hutchinson Family, America's first protest singers

See those people? They're part of the Hutchinson Family. The Hutchinsons were the first protest singers in the US. In the 1840s, they championed causes like abolition by singing original songs and parodies, like this one to the tune of 'Old Dan Tucker':

Men of various predilections,

Frightened, run in all directions;

Merchants, Editors, Physicians,

Lawyers, Priests and Politicians.

Get out of the way! every station,

Clear the track of 'mancipation.

That song's got it all: a parody of a current hit song (just like Weird Al Yankovic), political savvy (like the Parody Project), and a militant cry for social justice. Just like today. It's absolutely amazing what you can learn from the past. And boy, is the internet the tool, if you learn the techniques and aren't too gullible, or fall into confirmation bias, etc.

In other words: the Past is a different country, yes. It's also a familiar place. People might, or might not, have been shorter then. They certainly did some weird things. But they were also kin to us. We want you to tell a story about that.

Setting, characters, challenges? Your choice. Pick a time and a place for your 'hole in history'. Don't overburden yourself with action or complicated plot. Concentrate on the question, 'What was it like?' and go from there. You don't need to over-research: but you do want to know something about the background. No fair having those Neanderthals owning jet skis.

Does your imagination wander to the near past, or the distant, ancient mists of time? Are you curious about your own backyard, as I am, or do you have wanderlust pulling you to the steppes of Central Asia? (That's assuming you don't already live there.) Have fun with this.

Some Tools for You

As I am aware that not everybody does this sort of thing on an everyday basis, here are some handy and safe internet tools for you.

  • archive.org. Lots of things to see, hear, watch, borrow. If it's restricted, you might have to log in. This is free and mostly safe (do stay away from anything that has a full page of random SEO links and talks about 'lizard people'). There are movies, books, old tv shows, collections of sheet music, old recordings…you won't run out of things to look up. One caveat: the search engine is kind of bare-bones. Choose your search terms judiciously, and try different strategies to get at what you want. However, you can refine and narrow the search with the handy boxes on the left of the screen.
  • openlibrary.org has books you can borrow, usually an hour at a time, though some will let you take them out for two weeks. Be a good citizen and return them when you're finished.
  • Youtube. You wouldn't believe the number of historians who talk on Youtube. Also the amount of fun music you can find. All the way back to ancient Sumeria. I know you think Youtube's just for kitty videos and TED talks (and awful videos by me for the h2g2 Post), but it's really a treasure trove of interesting Stuff.
  • The Library of Congress. Starting with Thomas Jefferson's personal book stash, which he donated after the British burned down the first library (ahem), the Library of Congress has created a fantastic go-to collection. Also remember to check out the online Prints and Photographs Collection. Not everything is Public Domain: watch and they'll tell you if it is.

There's lots more out there. If you find anything good, share it with us. Happy history hunting!

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Dmitri Gheorgheni

19.10.20 Front Page

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