Chester Arthur Burnett left his mother’s home in the Mississippi Delta because he had had enough. His righteous and downright mean Uncle caught him humming a tune that he had overheard one of the sharecroppers singing and called it “The devil’s music”. Chester knew it wasn’t the devil’s music, but he did want to know more about what this music was. So he went barefoot nearly a hundred miles to his father’s home - where he met two men that would introduce him to the music and his own destiny.
Note: Though this is historical fiction and the characters have been developed to accommodate a story, their attributes and development may be useful as reference points and inspirations.
Topics for Investigation
Mississippi history - Biographies of Howlin Wolf, Charley Patton and Henry Sloan - History of Delta Blues - Account of cotton sharecropping and the boll weevil
Mississippi geography - Map of the mississippi river - Map tracking the boll weevil’s introduction and spread throughout the south - Historical map of the Blues and how it spread north
“Boll Weevil and the Blues” study topics - Music and cultural influences that created the “Blues” - How the cotton industry affected America
Topics for Reflection
From a Child Development Perspective:
In this story, your child might learn that:
Telling the truth is a relief. When we start down the path of telling a fib, it can grow and grow and grow, making it hard to keep up with the story we have created. So it's always a relief when we just come to the truth. Chester had begun down a path of dishonesty when he lied about his age, but then when he told his father's name at the porch of the juke joint he was relieved when the man knew his daddy.
There are people that we meet in life that we know we're going to change us forever. We can feel it deep down in our bones somehow. There is something inexplicable about human connection. When Chester saw Charlie Patton and heard his booming voice, he knew immediately that there was a deep connection that he would have with this man, or at least with this man’s music.
It is important to trust that feeling deep inside when you don't feel safe. And just as important to do what you need to to get away from that unsafe situation and find grown-ups who can help you find safety. This is just what Chester did when he ran from the situation with his uncle to find his daddy at Deerwood Plantation.
We cannot forget our good friends who were in situations like Chester living along the Mississippi River in the time of history when he did or others who live in equally challenging situations now.
Perhaps the most profound lesson to be learned from this story is that good can prevail, even in the hardest of situations. Challenges from our circumstances, history, and the Boll Weevil can be overcome if we put our head, heart, and hands toward making change and by listening to the deep in resonant tones in the guidance of the Blues. This was, in essence, Chester's story.
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About the Authors
David Sewell McCann
David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.
Meredith has been working with adults and children of all ages for the past 25 years as a Waldorf Teacher and Educational Consultant. She received a B.A. with a focus on child development and child psychology from the University of Michigan, in 1984, an M.A. Ed from Washington University in 1987, and her Waldorf Teaching Certificate from the Lehrerausbildung (Teacher Training) in Nurnberg, Germany in 1989. She was certified as a Living Inquiries Facilitator in 2014, and she completed her formal teaching certification with The Enneagram Institute in 2014. Her work in the classroom and with individuals and groups is designed to help people of all ages to drop self-limiting beliefs to live a more joyful and compassionate life.