Mar. 3, 2000


by David Huddle

Broadcast Date: FRIDAY: March 3, 2000

Poem: "Icicle" by David Huddle from Summer Lake (Louisiana State University Press).

It's the birthday of poet JAMES MERRILL, born in New York (1926). Awards for his collections of poetry include 2 National Book Awards, for Nights and Days (1966) and Mirabell (1978); the Bollinger Prize in Poetry for Braving the Elements (1972); a Pulitzer Prize for Divine Comedies (1976); and the first Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, awarded by the Library of Congress, for The Inner Room (1988).

It's the birthday of CLIFF FAULKNOR, born in Vancouver, British Columbia (1913), author of adventure stories for young readers, including the trilogy The White Calf, The White Peril, and The Smoke Horse.

On this day in 1859, journalist Mortimer Thomas attended an auction of over 400 men, women, and children held by General Pierce Butler at the horse track just outside Savannah, Georgia. The result, his booklet "What Became of the Slaves on a Georgia Plantation?"—fueled tensions between the North and South just before the Civil War. Butler was selling his slaves to pay off gambling debts. The number he sold made it the largest slave auction in the nation's history. A hard rain fell for the two days that it took to auction everyone off: most stood with uncovered heads as they were bid upon. The highest price paid for a man was $1,750; for a woman, $1,250. Thomas described the miserable weather, and the way prospective buyers poked and prodded the slaves to see if they were healthy before bidding. When it was all over, he wrote: "And now came the last partings, of those who were all in all to each other, the parting of parents and children, of brother from brother—these scenes pass all description. That night, not a steamer left Savannah, not a train of cars sped away that did not bear each its own sad burden."

It's the birthday of ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL, born in Edinburgh, Scotland (1847). He came from a long line of teachers who specialized in working with the deaf; Graham's most famous invention was the telephone, first intended as an aid for the deaf.

Beethoven's "MOONLIGHT SONATA", the 14th of his 32 piano sonatas, was published in Vienna on this day in 1802. Beethoven wrote it when he was 27 and was head-over-heels in love with a 17-year old countess. It became his most popular sonata, though he didn't much care, himself, for its famous first movement. The right hand moves very slowly and does very little, the left hand even less—but it was this slow movement that gave the sonata its nickname after Beethoven died.

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