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AMERICAN MOSAIC - August 16, 2002: Question About American Families / Folk and Blues Music / Washington's Spy Museum - 2002-08-15


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.


This is Doug Johnson. On our program today:

We play some American folk and blues music ...

Answer a listener’s question about American families ...

And report about a new museum in Washington, D.C.

Spy Museum


Washington, D.C., is famous for its many fine museums, like the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art. Now, a new museum has opened to share information that once was very secret. Bob Cohen tells us about the new International Spy Museum.


The International Spy Museum presents the stories of men and women who worked as spies for countries around the world. The museum is careful to explain that a spy may be considered guilty of treason in one country and a hero in another country.

The new museum opened a few weeks ago. It is already very popular. Visitors often must wait for thirty minutes or more before they can enter the building.

The museum tells the stories of spies from ancient times to the present. There are photographs of many famous spies.

More popular, however, are the hundreds of pieces of unusual equipment that were used by spies. Visitors can see examples of radios that spies used to send and receive information during World War Two. They can see some special cameras used to take secret photographs. One special camera looks like a package of cigarettes.

The museum also has a collection of weapons used by spies. These include special pistols that do not look like guns. One gun looks like a man’s leather glove that fits over the hand.

The International Spy Museum also tells what happens to people who were caught spying. One of these was a woman known as Mata Hari. She was convicted of spying for the German government. She was executed during World War Two. The museum makes sure visitors understand that spying is a very dangerous game.

The International Spy Museum is owned by a company that is building museums for profit. It costs eleven dollars for an adult and eight dollars for a child to enter the museum. Critics say the price is too high. But the people waiting in long lines outside the museum do not seem to care. They appear happy to pay the money for a chance to enter the secret world of spies.

American Families


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Nepal. Sunil Dhungana asks about the different kinds of families in America.

There have been many changes in American families in the past few years. So there are many different kinds of families today. There are fewer traditional families in the United States today than in the past. The traditional family includes a man and woman who are married and their children. Fewer than twenty-five percent of American homes have these traditional families.

One major influence on families is the high number of marriages than end in divorce. More single parents are raising their children today. There is also a high rate of unmarried women having babies.

Research has found that the marriage rate in the United States is dropping. More men and women are choosing to live together and have children, but not get married. Population experts say that the number of unmarried parents in the United States increased more than seventy percent in the past ten years.

Another kind of American family is the stepfamily. A stepfamily includes a married man and woman and at least one child from a former marriage or relationship. Many stepfamilies include children of both the man and woman from earlier marriages and children from their current marriage.

Foster families are also a part of American life. A child who does not have parents is placed in the home of a foster family until the child can be adopted. Adoption is the legal process by which a child becomes part of a family. Many men and women who are not able to produce children will adopt a child instead. Some people who have given birth to their own children choose to give a home to other children through adoption.

Studies also show an increase in the number of children who have parents of the same sex. Sometimes, one of the adults is the biological parent of the child. Sometimes the children are adopted.

So, as you can see, the traditional family in the United States is changing. However, many Americans say it is not important if family members are related through biology or not. The important thing in a family is love.

Alan Lomax


Alan Lomax died last month in Florida. He was eighty-seven years old. He played an important part in discovering and recording traditional American songs. Shirley Griffith tells us about him.


Alan Lomax traveled around the United States and the world recording the folk, blues and jazz music of common people. His father, John Lomax, studied the music of the people in the American West and South. During the nineteen-thirties, Alan Lomax joined his father in a trip across the South to collect American folk songs for the United States Library of Congress.

They recorded many of these songs by men in prisons. One of these recordings is a song called “Po’ Lazarus” by James Carter and the Prisoners. The song was included in the very successful movie and album called “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”


John and Alan Lomax also recorded songs by another prisoner, Huddie (HUD-dee) Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly. They helped him get released from prison. He became their driver. He also became a very successful folk and blues singer. Here is a recording of Leadbelly’s song “Midnight Special.”


Alan Lomax recorded thousands of folk songs across the United States and in Britain, Italy, Spain and the Caribbean. He developed a collection of folk songs from around the world in an effort to increase understanding among people.

In the nineteen-forties, Alan Lomax recorded music by a guitar player named McKinley Morganfield. He was a farm worker in Mississippi. Millions of blues fans around the world would later know him as Muddy Waters. We leave you now with Muddy Waters’ recording of “Take a Walk With Me.”



This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. And I hope you will join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by Jill Moss, Nancy Steinbach and Paul Thompson. Our studio engineer was Curtis Bynum. And our producer was Caty Weaver.