LOS ANGELES, June 15, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- School's out, summer is upon us and summer camp is just around the corner for more than ten million kids in the United States. Camp is traditionally a place for learning, having fun and making friends. However, a little-known piece of American history teaches us that one particular summer camp had an additional goal in mind – teaching diversity. Camp Woodland was a summer camp that brought together city kids of varying ethnicities to share in the music, folklore and traditions of one another… well before the Civil Rights Movement took hold.
In 1939, a group of idealists inspired by the spirit of the New Deal reform put their vision of American democracy into practice by creating Camp Woodland, a racially and ethnically inclusive summer camp for city kids located in the remote and scenic mountains of upstate New York. The camp's innovative programs profoundly influenced campers for 24 summers from 1939 to 1962. One of those campers was Bill Horne, who grew up to champion civil rights as an attorney and now, as a historian, chronicles the development and importance of this special place in a new book, The Improbable Community: Camp Woodland and the American Democratic Ideal. His story comes at a time when racial and cultural strife is again on the rise in this country.
The founders of Camp Woodland were united by the progressive politics of the 1930s. Some were teachers influenced by educational reformers of the early 20th century. Some contributed administrative skills. All were committed to racial and social justice well before the Civil Rights Movement became a force in the 1950s and '60s.
Unlike some experimental communities that isolate themselves and withdraw into a world of their own, Camp Woodland by design sought to have its diverse population of campers and staff, most from the New York City metropolitan area, become part of the rural, traditional community in which they lived. It was able to earn the acceptance and respect of its neighbors through a program of honoring and preserving the community's music, folklore and history. Local musicians, storytellers and artisans participated along with Woodlanders in musical and dramatic performances that celebrated the rich cultural resources of the region.
Camp Woodland quickly became a center (and later, a model) for the preservation of local traditions that attracted musicologists and musicians who supported and participated in its programs.
Maybe we can take a lesson from a "model community" founded 78 years ago while we enjoy the stories, pictures and folklore of this very special place in the world.
The Improbable Community: Camp Woodland and the American Democratic Ideal is available at Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/Improbable-Community-Bill-Horne/dp/0971033714) and booksellers everywhere.
For more information, visit: http://www.improbablecommunity.com/
The Sayles Organization
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SOURCE Bill Horne