Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Windows and Mirrors: A Program about Diversity for Grades 4-5

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Charles Dickens

A friend and ally of his era's Unitarian thinkers both in England and the U.S. (for example, William Ellery Channing and Ralph Waldo Emerson), Dickens for decades attended a Unitarian church in London. However, he had been raised in the Anglican church and belonged to an Anglican church at the end of his life. Find a detailed biography by Wesley Hromatko on the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography website.

A 2005 UU World article, "Ebenezer Scrooge's Conversion," by Michael Timko, describes how Charles Dickens's story, A Christmas Carol, exemplified 19th-century Unitarianism.

The website Charles Dickens online has biographical information and many other resources.

One source of information for the story "Charles Dickens" was the Hibbert Assembly web site, supported by the Hibbert Trust, founded in 1847 under the will of Unitarian Robert Hibbert. In addition to extensive children's worship and religious education resources to study the life and works of Dickens, find resources on other noted Unitarians and spiritual and religious topics.

Dickens Literature Resources

On David Perdue's Charles Dickens Page, find a plot summary, copies of the original illustrations and more details from the 1843 publication of A Christmas Carol. The website also provides extensive information and links to other resources for Oliver Twist and many other Dickens works. SparkNotes offers a plot summary for Oliver Twist.

Dickens on Film

Adaptations of A Christmas Carol available on DVD include the 1970 musical film, Scrooge, starring Albert Finney, and 1951's Scrooge, starring Alistair Sim. A 2005 Disney DVD, Classic Cartoon Favorites, vol. 9: Classic

Holiday Stories, presents "Mickey's Christmas Carol," in which three Christmas spirits teach Scrooge McDuck to mend his miserly ways.

David Lean directed the first film version of Oliver Twist in 1948; Roman Polanski directed another film version in 2005. Oliver!, the musical, premiered in London's West End in 1960 and on Broadway in 1964. Directed on film by Sir Carol Reed, Oliver! won the 1968 Academy Award for Best Picture. It was revived at the Royal Drury Lane Theatre in London in 2008.

"The Invisible Poor"

In a March, 2000 article in New York Times Magazine, James Fallows addresses the discomfort economically comfortable Americans feel in the presence of people who are poor. He writes, in part:

Because I had a long commute I often stayed late to wait out the traffic. Around 9 p.m. I'd hear a knock on the office door. A woman in her 60s, wearing a stiff-fabric vest with the logo of an office-cleaning company, stepped into the room to empty my wastebasket and collect Mountain Dew cans from the recycling bin. She would say something I could barely understand, and I would nod back. It seemed that she was Russian. She walked as if her feet hurt. She did not have the bounce of the people I saw during the day. She kept making her rounds until about midnight.

Eventually I started leaving the office to go home as soon as I heard her a few doors down. I was willing to read articles about the travails of the working poor or the adjustment problems of older, unskilled immigrants. I just didn't want to watch her limp.

Hurricane Katrina

Many emergency relief workers and volunteers who went to the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita bore witness to poverty that had preceded the natural disaster. Their reports brought the economic inequities to national attention. Writing in a Vanderbilt University magazine in 2005 (America needs to face the "invisible poor"), J. Mark White shared what he had seen in Washington Parish, Louisiana.

We spent a lot of time clearing brush and fallen trees from people's yards, straining all kinds of muscles many of us had long forgotten. The greatest strain came, however, in visits to particularly poor areas on Monday morning of the trip.

At one residence, the home of the Burch family, the ceiling and roof were infested with brown recluse spiders, the floor of the house in some places revealed the crawl space below, and the roof dangled precariously off the back porch in disrepair. It was difficult to tell if the house had been affected by the hurricane, since there was so much prior damage. The 4-year-old boy of the house ran around the yard dodging broken glass, a pig pen, loose chickens, and a dead rat.... The list of appalling details goes on and on.

In meeting the Burch family, I faced the poverty of which I frequently speak and write. I had seen poverty before; I had driven through poor neighborhoods in Chicago, Boston, New York, and poor areas of rural Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia . But I had never stopped and talked to the people, played with the kids, and witnessed the daily devastation that is their lives.

In a September, 2005 article, "Katrina Exposes the 'Invisible Poor,'" on the NAACP Legal Defense Fund web site, Theodore M. Shaw writes:

The nation watched as New Orleans was evacuated—or so we thought. Those who could left by the tens and hundreds of thousands. Those who could not—the "invisible" poor—stayed. As the hurricane hit, most people thought that a relatively small number of people who could not or would not leave were safely ensconced in the Superdome to ride out the storm. The ugly reality, that those who were too poor to own cars and who had no place and no means to go numbered in the hundreds of thousands, only became apparent as New Orleans descended into a hellish nightmare that most Americans like to think could happen anywhere but here. Yet it did.

As the faces of the "invisible" poor were revealed, they were overwhelmingly black. Once again, race exploded openly into the national conscience.

Social Reform Photography

"The poor are always with us and almost always visible, yet not always seen," writes Vicki Goldberg in a 1995 New York Times article about contemporary exhibitions of social reform photographs by Jacob Riis, Dorothea Lange and others.

Find a slide show of Jacob Riis photographs and other multimedia resources on the web site, Documenting "The Other Half": The Social Reform Photography of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine, developed by Kay Davis at the University of Virginia in 2000.