Oct. 12, 1999

Homecoming: Appalachia, Fall 1975

by Harold Branam

Broadcast Date: TUESDAY: October 12, 1999

Poem: "Homecoming: Appalachia, Fall 1975" by Harold Branam from Now and Then Summer, 1998, published by East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee.

The 12th of October is the day we have been taught to believe Christopher Columbus first set foot on New World soil—although scholars now say the event occurred on the 13th of October 1492. A Dutch sailor, they claim, persuaded Columbus to change the log and make it seem October 12th was the day of the landing to prevent the real date from sparking superstitious fear in other sailors or in potential investors. In his journal, Columbus wrote of his first encounter with the natives: "As I saw they were friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us."

It's the birthday of playwright, actor and director Charles Gordone, born in Cleveland (1925), director of 25 plays and the first black playwright to win the Pulitzer Prize for his first play, No Place to Be Somebody (1967).

It's the birthday of playwright, novelist and actress Alice Childress, born in Charleston, South Carolina (1916)—who grew up in Harlem and performed with the American Negro Theater on and off Broadway during the 1940s, then turned to writing, using straightforward dialogue that was often attacked by censors. In the mid-1970s her young adult novel A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich (1973), about a 13-year-old heroin addict, was banned by a Long Island school district (along with works by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Langston Hughes and others) for containing rough language and 'offensive' material. Her plays include: Trouble in Mind (1955), Wedding Band (1966), and The African Garden (1971).

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