The Weekly Text, March 3, 2017, Women’s History Month 2017 Week I: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Billie Holiday

Last March, after Black History Month had concluded, I somehow missed the fact that the third month of the year is Women’s History Month. So, I neglected to post any work for the Month last year; I won’t overlook it this year. The next five Fridays at Mark’s Text Terminal will feature readings to honor Women’s History Month. You might also want to take a look at the National Women’s History Project website, and the U.S. Government’s Women’s History Month website, which is a joint project of The Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Gallery of Art, the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Here at Mark’s Text Terminal, the month begins with a bridge reading between Black History Month and Women’s History Month. This week’s Text is on the sublime Billie Holiday. Lady Day, as is well known, led a tragic and abbreviated life, cut short by her own self-destructive excesses. For that reason, you might want to euphemize or otherwise edit this reading on Billie Holiday. Whatever you choose to do, here is a comprehension worksheet to accompany it. I teach high school, where this reading is appropriate. For lower grades, I expect that the reading would need redaction.

There is a case to be made that without the racism that made the lives of so many African-American musicians difficult if not miserable–and I’m thinking of Lester Young (who enjoyed a beautiful musical rapport with Billie Holiday), Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Dexter Gordon, among others–Lady Day would have been a superstar on the order of a Beyonce, or a nearer contemporary of hers, Frank Sinatra. After all, both Mr. Sinatra and Ms. Holiday were cultivating similar artistic ground in the Great American Songbook.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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