Daily Archives: February 10, 2017

212° Academy students win Young Authors contest

212° Academy students Allison Cleaver and Eva Cook have been selected as the winners of the SOKY Book Fest – 212° Academy Young Authors Contest. Cleaver, daughter of Kevin and Terri Cleaver, wrote the historical fiction book My World in Two, and Cook, daughter of Ryan and Amelia Cook, wrote the historical fiction book Dreams Go Down in History #1: Tea for Two. Cleaver is a 6th grader from Jody Richards Elementary School, and Cook is a 6th grader from Alvaton Elementary School.

WKU Libraries Literary Outreach Coordinator and SOKY Book Fest organizer Sara Volpi said there was a wonderful variety of books this year. “We were exceedingly impressed with the imagination and effort put into each book the 212° Academy students wrote,” said Volpi. “The students work diligently for months, drafting their stories, revising, and sourcing illustrations. Picking the winners is always tough,” said Volpi.

One highlight of the 212° Academy experience is participation in SILS (Special Interest Labs), including areas of study such as Inventor’s Workshop, Roller Coaster Physics, and Wild Worlds.  Led by teacher Andrea Heming, students in the Lulu Online Book Publishing SIL wrote, illustrated, and published original books which are entered into the Young Writers Contest.

“Students were able to research and write about something they were passionate about,” said Heming. “They were so excited to receive their books and see all their hard work come to fruition.”

The contest is a combined effort between the Southern Kentucky Book Fest partners (Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Warren County Public Library, and WKU Libraries) and the teachers at the 212° Academy. Cleaver and Cook were recognized at their schools and are invited to sign copies of their books at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest on April 21-22, along with R.L. Stine and 170 plus authors.

For more information, visit www.sokybookfest.org or contact Sara Volpi at (270) 745-4502.

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“I Know Nothing”

American Party broadside (Kentucky Library Research Collections)

American Party broadside (Kentucky Library Research Collections)

Streaking across the political firmament in the 1850s, the American Party rose in response to a wave of immigrants, many of them Catholics, to the United States.  The party saw the newcomers as a threat to American values and economic security, and feared that their allegiance to the Pope would compromise their loyalty to the country.

Collections in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections tell us of the interest the American Party attracted throughout the country.  It was originally more of a secret society, with a formal admission ceremony described by Robert Hale, and a command to members to say “I know nothing” when pressed for their beliefs.  The “Know Nothing Party,” as it came to be called, stood for restricting immigration, limiting eligibility for political office to native-born Protestants, and imposing a lengthy residence requirement for U.S. citizenship.

American Party broadside

Although the Know Nothings were most prominent in the Northeast, they drew comment from every region.  Writing from California to his father in Dry Fork, Kentucky, George Young observed that “the Know Nothings are increasing very fast” and “I am inclined to believe that it will do this state much good.”  A more skeptical letter-writer in Texas told the Goodnight family of Warren County, Kentucky that party supporters “talk a great deal about true Americans but I don’t believe there is a true Republican amongst them.”

In a speech delivered in Virginia, Georgia native Michael Cluskey, later a newspaper editor in Louisville, offered a lengthy and increasingly passionate criticism of the Know Nothings.  He debunked the “bugbear of immigration,” which was “made to appear frightful by the unfounded statements of certain Know Nothing orators.”  Contrary to the claim that “there were 1000 000 million of emigrants into this country during the last year,” he pointed to actual native-born-to-immigrant ratios of 38 to 1 in Virginia and 8 to 1 in the U.S.  A recent decrease in immigration, in fact, was threatening to cause a labor shortage, especially for public works like roads and canals, to which “native born Americans generally don’t choose to expose themselves.”  As for the party’s anti-Catholic platform, Cluskey observed that “nothing is so easily stirred up in the breast of man as the serpent of Religious prejudice,” a “cry of wolf” through which politicians could achieve darker objectives.  “Small temporary shocks like these,” he argued, were more dangerous to the republic than “direct blows at its stability.”

The 1856 presidential election, in which their candidate finished last, spelled the end of the Know Nothings.  In a letter written from Madisonville, Kentucky, Charles Cook understood why.  “I still cherish the leading principles of the American party as the only efficient guarantee against the dangerous influences and corrupting tendencies of foreign emigration,” he admitted, “but these are questions of minor importance.”  The issue now roiling the country, and the one to which “the earnest efforts of every patriotic Union loving man should be turned,” was slavery.

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For more collections relating to immigrants and the Know Nothings, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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