Pete Seeger: Letters About Family and Childhood
Poignant and innocent, these childhood letters written by Pete Seeger will transport you back to a simpler time.
“Pete Seeger in His Own Words” compiles a valuable collection of private writings, documents and letters, and presents the story of a man struggling to understand his gift, his time and his place.
Cover Courtesy Paradigm Publishers
Pete Seeger, a lifelong American musical and political icon, has eloquently written in books and for magazines, activist movements and union letters. Pete Seeger: In His Own Words (Paradigm Publishers, 2012) assembles an array of sources such as letters, notes to himself, published articles, stories and poetry that paints the most intimate picture of Seeger as a musician, activist and family man. Through his own words, learn about the lives of his ancestors, and discover why, at age 13, he wanted a banjo in this excerpt taken from Chapter 1, “Growing Up (1919 - 1934).”
Pete Seeger was recently interviewed on “The Colbert Report.” To watch him discuss Pete Seeger: In His Own Words, view the episide online: The Colbert Report - Full Episode: August 6, 2012.
“My Family Background,” 1957
Draft of letter to Paul Ross, dated May 10, 1957; found in Seeger files
You wanted some résumé of my family background and life, so I sit me down and try to organize a teeming memory.
First of all, like many people, I have spent much of my youth trying to forget my antecedents. I confess it. I tried to ignore them, to disparage them. I felt they were all upper-class, and I was trying to identify myself with the working people. Now, at the sage and sober age of 38 I have finally come around to assess them more objectively, to be grateful for their strength and character, for their making it possible for me to be alive on this world today, and to realize that a good honest streak of independency has run through them for as much of the last three hundred years as I know about.
Most of them seemed to be teachers, doctors, teachers, preachers, businessmen, teachers, artists, writers, or teachers. The generations seem shot through with pedagogues. In this century, both parents, several brothers, aunts, and uncles have all been teachers. Going back a few generations, we find several doctors, and more teachers. Back further, even a few soldiers, perhaps a lawyer, a hymn writer, and more teachers. Even old Elder Brewster on the Mayflower was as much a scholar as anything else. So: my hat off to them all, and the pursuit of knowledge. “Where men gather to seek truth, that spot is holy ground.” Probably the most financially successful was old great grandpa Charlier, whose select Institute was one of New York’s most elegant a century ago. But then he was the only one also ever brought before a congressional committee and asked how come some rich men’s sons were arranging bribes to congressmen for West Point applications. So maybe it’s just as well most of them weren’t too successful.
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