Northwood High School's Transcendentalism Wiki

Welcome to our Wiki!
I can't help but think of Emerson's Nature when I see the clouds...they "awaken a certain reverence, because though they are always present, they are inaccessible..."
Our English class has spent a great deal of time reading and discussing Transcendentalism, so I hope you now have a comfortable understanding of the movement and its five primary tenets. These ideas – Nonconformity, Self-Reliance, Optimism & Confidence in Human Perfectibility, Respect & Importance of Nature, and Nonviolent Resistance – have outlived Emerson and Thoreau.

Your culminating assignment for this unit requires you to complete three interrelated projects:

1 – Twentieth Century Events Influenced by Transcendentalism
If I could better follow Thoreau's advice to "simplify, simplify," how many more butterflies would I notice?
Research and document two different people/movements/events that demonstrate the influence of Transcendentalism on life in the twentieth century. You need to provide information about each of the people/movements/events, using specific information –Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How – from at least three different sources. (Your sources must be included in the Works Cited page you will also be required to compile.) Then you must show how the movement you have selected is similar to the ideas of Emerson and/or Thoreau by citing specific quotes from these Transcendental writers. You may also supplement this information with photos or other graphics. In addition, provide hyperlinks to any sources you’ve used that appear online or that may help viewers better understand the event you’ve selected.

2 – Transcendentalism in Popular Culture
"Crossing a bare twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughs any occurrence of special good furtune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration." Who wouldn't when viewpoint a skyscape like this one?
Locate two different expressions of Transcendental ideas from contemporary popular culture. These expressions may be in the form of song lyrics, movies, television, newspaper editorials, commercials, and comics. Ideally, you can upload your choice to the wiki; if not, provide a hyperlink. (Once again, you will need to include these sources on your Works Cited page.) Each should demonstrate a different Transcendental value. For each, provide an explanation of its Transcendental thinking as well as a parallel idea and quote from the works of Emerson and/or Thoreau.

3 – Works Cited Page
Use correct MLA form to create a Works Cited Page that includes all the sources you used in your research. I’ve included the format for the excerpts from Emerson and Thoreau; these should be added to no fewer than eight additional sources (six for Project 1 and two for Project 2). The grade for this piece of the assignment will largely be a reflection of your correct use of MLA form. Because your sources are likely to be web-based, you might want to use EasyBib to help ensure that this form is correct. Check it out at Easy Bib

KSJ's Page
One Twentieth-Century Event Influenced by Transcendentalism: Tommie Smith and John Carlos' Black Power Salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics
Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists, a gesture that set the world on its ear. Source: AP Photo
On October 16, 1968, Tommie Smith won the 200-meter dash at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Teammate John Carlos finished third. Smith, an African-American, had been active in the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). This movement had originally encouraged black athletes to boycott the games as a way of bringing to the world’s attention America’s civil rights movement, but too many athletes (justifiably) didn’t want to give up a chance to compete in the Olympics. Consequently, individual athletes who felt strongly looked for other ways to make a statement.

When Smith and Carlos mounted the medal stand, each went shoeless, rather wearing black socks that symbolized black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf to signify black pride. To show solidarity with blue-collar workers in the U.S., Carlos wore his tracksuit top unzipped; he said the necklace of beads he wore "were for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage." All three athletes on the medal stand – Smith, Carlos, and Australian sprinter Peter Norman – wore OPHR badges. As Smith told ABC-TV announcer Howard Cosell in Mexico City, “My raised right hand stood for the power in black America. Carlos’ raised left hand stood for the unity of black America. Together they formed an arch of unity and power. ”But the most provocative part of the protest was the Black Power salute both Smith and Carlos offered, their fists covered in black gloves and raised in defiance. Even as the "Star-Spangled Banner" played, Smith and Carlos, their heads bowed, lifted their fists, an image captured by countless cameras and splashed across the covers of newspapers worldwide.
Smith and Carlos were finally honored for their contribution to the civil rights movement in 2005 when this statue immortalized their brave act of civil disobedience. Source: Spartan Daily
Smith and Carlos were not the only athletes to use their victories as platforms for protest, but they were the most reviled. The crowd booed them as they left the medal stand, and the International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage ordered Smith and Carlos suspended from the U.S. team and banned from the Olympic Village. Originally the U.S. team refused to abide by this order, but when Brundage threatened the entire U.S. track team, the two were expelled from the Games. Once home, they faced public criticism and abuse, and they and their families faced death threats.

Although Smith and Carlos would probably trace their inspiration to civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., their protest fits nearly all the criteria laid out by Henry David Thoreau in "Resistance to Civil Government." Thoreau wrote "If a plant cannot live according to its nature; it dies; and so a man." How could Smith or Carlos or any other African-American citizen whose civil rights were limited in anyway "live according to its nature"? In such a situation, Thoreau emphasized the need to respond: "…if…requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law." Smith and Carlos didn’t break the law, but their silent protest challenged the expected propiety of the Olympics, thereby offending many who were quite content to ignore the minority’s limited access to fair and equal treatment under the law.

Although Smith and Carlos were surprised by the vehement response to their protest, they accepted it just as Thoreau willingly went to jail as the penalty for his nonviolent protest. Thoreau even welcomed prison as "the true place for a just man…". Thankfully most people came to see the protest of Smith and Carlos as a brave, even righteous act that, in its own way, changed the lives of African-Americans for the better.

To learn more, check out these links:
1968 Olympics Black Power salute
Civil Disobedience
Two runners, once united with Olympic gesture, are now divided
BBC On This Day

Transcendentalism in Popular Culture: "Wide Open Spaces" by the Dixie Chicks
"Wide Open Spaces"
Who doesn't know what I'm talking about
Who's never left home, who's never struck out
To find a dream and a life of their own
A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone

Many precede and many will follow
A young girl's dream no longer hollow
It takes the shape of a place out west
But what it holds for her, she hasn't yet guessed

She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes
The Dixie Chicks' "Wide Open Spaces" was released in 1998.

She traveled this road as a child
Wide eyed and grinning, she never tired
But now she won't be coming back with the rest
If these are life's lessons, she'll take this test

[Repeat Chorus]
She knows the high stakes

As her folks drive away, her dad yells, "Check the oil!"
Mom stares out the window and says, "I'm leaving my girl"
She said, "It didn't seem like that long ago"
When she stood there and let her own folks know

[Repeat Chorus]
She knows the highest stakes
She knows the highest stakes
She knows the highest stakes
She knows the highest stakes

These lyrics, performed by the Dixie Chicks, reflect a number of Transcendentalism’s interests. The young woman in the song longs to fulfill her dreams and sets out "wide eyed and grinning" to discover them for herself. This reflects the optimism of Transcendentalism much as Emerson does when he suggests that each of us should trust ourselves ("Self-Reliance"). There’s even a suggestion of nonconformity in the line "…now she won’t be coming back with the rest." Emerson would have supported her in that as is evidenced when he says, "…none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried" ("Self-Reliance"). Further, she turns to "wide open spaces," which reminds me of Emerson’s suggestion that we look to the stars to discover truth (Nature, Chapter 1). The strongest Transcendental link for me is the line "a place in the clouds, a foundation of stone." She’s dreamed of her future and now sets out to make that dream real. Whenever I hear that, I think of Thoreau in Walden: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

Works Cited
"1968 Olympics Black Power salute." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 2009. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.. 27 Feb 2009

Barrera, Cheeto. "SJSU Honors '68 Olympics Activists With Sculpture." Santa Cruz Independent Media Center 17 10 2005 2 Mar 2009

Davis. David. "Two runners, once united with Olympic gesture, are now divided," Las Angeles Times 08 07 2008. Las Angeles Times. 2 Mar 2009

Dixie Chicks, ""Wide Open Spaces"." 2009. 4 Mar 2009

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. The Best of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York: Walter J. Black, 1941.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "Self-Reliance." The Language of Literature: American Literature. 2000. Arthur N. Applebee, et all, Ed. Evanston, Illinois: McDougal Littell, 2000.

"Fists of Freedom: The Story of the ‘68 Summer Games." HBO, 22 February 2009.

Gettings, John. "Civil Disobedience: Black Medalists Raise Fists for Civil Rights Movement." 2 Mar 2009

Gibson, Susan. "Wide Open Spaces," Wide Open Spaces. Perf. Dixie Chicks. CD. Monument Records, 1998.

"On this day : 17 October 1968: Black athletes make silent protest," BBC 2008. BBC. 4 Mar 2009

Thoreau, Henry David. "Civil Disobedience." The Language of Literature: American Literature. 2000. Arthur N. Applebee, et all, Ed. Evanston, Illinois: McDougal Littell, 2000.

Thoreau, Henry David. "Walden." The Language of Literature: American Literature. 2000. Arthur N. Applebee, et all, Ed. Evanston, Illinois: McDougal Littell, 2000.