Monday, July 23, 2012

Yosemite National Park

Deep in the Sierra Nevada, California’s snow-capped mountains, is a special hidden treasure – not gold or silver, but America’s most spectacular hidden valley.

It is called Yosemite and it is the center of one of our most popular national parks.

Yosemite Valley is seven miles long and in some places less than half a mile wide.  Towering on both sides of the winding Merced River are sheer granite walls more than 2,000 feet high.  Ribbon-like waterfalls cascade down the sides.   To the north, Half Dome Mountain presents its flat, scarred face.   (The other half of Half Dome cracked off and slid down into the valley thousands of years ago.)

Stretching out from the famous valley Yosemite National Park takes in 1,200 square miles of soaring mountains.   Mariposa Grove, in the south, is the home of giant sequoia trees.  Some of them measure 34 feet through the middle and are 275 feet high.  

In the northwest are the Tuolumne Meadows, cold Alpine meadows which fill with flowers in summer.  Through the years the park has revealed the beauty of the Sierra Nevada to millions of visitors.

The first white men to see Yosemite Valley were probably U.S. soldiers who arrived in 1851.

They were searching for Indians who were raiding nearby  mining camps.  There were 22 Indian villages in Yosemite at that time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth could neither read nor write.  But when this tall African-American woman strode on stage to speak out against slavery, she held everyone’s attention.  She began almost every speech with the same words:  “Children, I talk to God and God talks to me.”

Sojourner Truth was born a slave named Isabella on a farm in New York State.  Before she was freed, Sojourner Truth had several children, most of whom were sold into slavery by her masters.

She gained her freedom after New York abolished slavery, when she was about 30 years old.  She then moved to New York City, where she worked as a servant.  Deeply religious, she sometimes preached on street corners, both against slavery and on behalf of women’s rights.  

Then in 1843, she came to believe that God wanted her to “travel up and down the land” preaching his word. 

She took the name Sojourner (which means wanderer) Truth and began traveling through the country, speaking wherever she could find an audience.  She suffered abuse and physical attacks, but her eloquence made her famous.  In 1864, Abraham Lincoln invited her to the White House and appointed her counselor to freedmen in the capital.

After the Civil War, Sojourner Truth continued to work tirelessly to help the newly freed slaves and improve the lives of women.