Jules Gabriel Verne (1828)

Verne was a French novelist credited with originating the modern genre of science fiction. Early on, he was interested in theater and wrote librettos for operas. Later, he drew upon his knowledge of science and geography to write romances of extraordinary journeys, which quickly became very popular. He wrote more than 50 books in his lifetime, including A Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days. One of his books explores a five-week journey by what? Discuss
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Émile Zola Is Put on Trial for Publishing “J’Accuse” (1898)

A Jewish officer in the French army, Alfred Dreyfus was falsely convicted of treason in 1894. When officers discovered that the evidence against Dreyfus was false—and that he was most likely a victim of anti-Semitism—they covered it up. Writer Émile Zola exposed the scandal by publishing in a newspaper an open letter titled “J’accuse.” Zola was tried and convicted of criminal libel but fled the country, which was divided by the scandal. What happened to Dreyfus and Zola? Discuss
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Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder (1867)

Wilder was the American author of a classic series of children’s books based on her childhood. Born in Wisconsin after the Civil War, she traveled with her pioneer family throughout the Midwest by covered wagon for years before settling in the Dakota Territory. As a farmer and mother she struggled for years. Her first novel, Little House in the Big Woods was not published until 1932, when she was 65. How many of her books, which spawned a popular TV show, were published after her death? Discuss
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Diplodocus

Due to a wealth of fossil remains, the first of which was found in the late 1870s, Diplodocus is one of the best-studied dinosaurs. The herbivorous dinosaur roamed western North America about 145 million years ago, during the late Jurassic period, walked on four legs, and had an extremely small brain and skull. One of the longest known sauropods, Diplodocus could grow to be 88 ft (27 m) long, most of which was neck and tail. With what man-made structure is it often compared? Discuss
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Charles Lindbergh (1902)

In 1927, Lindbergh, an American aviator, made the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic in 33.5 hours, landing in Paris to a hero’s welcome. He returned to the US a celebrity but moved to England in 1932 to escape the media frenzy surrounding the kidnapping and murder of his son. Returning to the US in 1940, he faced criticism for opposing US entry into WWII. Still, he flew combat missions for the US during the war. He helped invent what device that made open-heart surgery possible? Discuss
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Street Art

Street art is any art developed in public spaces and includes traditional graffiti, stencil graffiti, sticker art, video projections, street installations, and posters. Though it usually refers to art of an illicit nature, the term is used to distinguish contemporary public-space artwork from territorial graffiti, vandalism, and corporate art. Some street artists have even achieved mainstream recognition and commercial success. Who are some prominent street artists? Discuss
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Quebec Winter Carnival

The celebration of winter that has been held since the mid-1950s in Quebec City ranks among the great carnivals of the world. It begins with the Queen’s Ball at the Château Frontenac and a parade of illuminated floats. More than 40,000 tons of snow are trucked in to construct a large snow castle, which is illuminated at night and which serves as a mock jail. Bonhomme Carnaval, the festival’s seven-foot-high snowman mascot dressed in a red cap and traditional sash, roams the streets teasing children and looking for people to lock up in the Ice Palace. …read more

Norman Rockwell (1894)

Rockwell was an American illustrator whose idealized scenes of family life in small-town America gained enormous popularity with the public. His illustrations appeared in major periodicals such as Collier’s and Life. From 1916 to 1963, he produced 317 covers for The Saturday Evening Post, and during WWII his patriotic posters were distributed by the government. What unusually serious subject did the sentimental illustrator cover for Look magazine later in his career? Discuss
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Harold Macmillan Delivers “Wind of Change” Speech (1960)

British statesman Harold Macmillan held several government posts during World War II, including minister resident in North Africa. After serving in several other positions, he became prime minister in 1957. Macmillan accelerated Britain’s decolonization, especially in Africa. In a memorable speech to the South African parliament in 1960, he said a “wind of change” was sweeping across Africa, which was experiencing a growth in national consciousness. What were the reactions to the speech? Discuss
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Mourning Sickness

Disparaged by critics as the new opiate of the masses, “mourning sickness” is the relatively recent phenomenon of collective public grieving for murder victims and celebrities who have died. Princess Diana’s death in 1997 prompted one of the most widespread examples of this in the UK, where makeshift memorials quickly became gathering places for public displays of mourning. The advent of the Internet provided the public with a new forum in which to share their grief. Who was Anna Svidersky? Discuss
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George Halas, “Papa Bear” (1895)

Halas was a pioneering football player, coach, and owner of one of the 11 original teams in the American Professional Football Association (APFA), the Decatur Staleys. Founded in 1920, the APFA went on to become the National Football League (NFL) in 1922—the same year Halas moved his team to Chicago and renamed it the Bears. Under his leadership, the Chicago Bears won seven NFL championships. In addition to coaching, Halas also played what position during the 1920s? Discuss
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Candlemas

After observing the traditional 40-day period of purification following the birth of Jesus, Mary presented him to God at the Temple in Jerusalem. According to a New Testament gospel, an aged and devout Jew named Simeon held the baby in his arms and said he would be “a light to lighten the Gentiles”. It is for this reason that February 2 has come to be called Candlemas and has been celebrated by the blessing of candles since the 11th century. In both the Eastern and Western churches, it is now known as the Feast of the Presentation …read more