FIFTY: American Territories and Washington DC

FIFTY: American Territories and Washington DC

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The United States of America is a magnificent experiment. It is a nation built on a dream of a better future, on equality, and on true freedom.

These six stories come from the United States Territories and the District of Columbia, the nation's capital.

Ages 8+



About the Stories


The United States of America is a magnificent experiment. It is a nation built on a dream of a better future, on equality, and on true freedom. But what does that really look like?

In this collection of stories, we learn about the American Experiment through the experience of “regular folk” – one from each of the territories and the District of Columbia. We will meet all the characters in a moment of true citizenship: when they make the American Experiment their own.

"Washington DC: The Dress"

For reasons that were unclear, First Lady Dolley Payne Madison had a strong connection to the velvet drapes in the White House Oval Drawing Room. She pushed for them to be used even when the official decorator balked. She saved them right before the White House was burned down by the English in the War of 1812. And then, years later, she transformed them into something very unique and special. Many people wondered why she gave the drapes so much attention — but her niece Anna knew the reason. And it was something far more important than people realized.*

"Puerto Rico: Hoy Vieques"

While the rest of her family protests at the Navy base, Esperanza and her grandfather take a day trip to northern Vieques, the small island off the coast of Puerto Rico, to see the old Ciebo tree. Esperanza’s grandfather tells her that the tree had a special message for him many years ago, and when she finally sees the tree and sits between its immense roots, she learns what the tree has to say to her as well.*

"Guam: The Radioman"

In 1941, the Japanese forces took control of the U.S. territory in Guam and most of the U.S. citizens escaped. Six soldiers, however, were left behind. Two-and-a-half years later, only one had successfully managed to escape capture: George Tweed, the Radioman. The reason for his success included good hiding spots and his intimate knowledge of electronics — but the biggest source of support came from the people of Guam who risked their lives to keep him safe.*

"American Virgin Islands: The Teacher and the King"

David Hamilton Jackson longed for justice and equality in his island home but was thwarted at every turn by a government he believed to be unsympathetic. One day, he received a summons to visit the ruling government officials and is surprised to learn that this is not a rebuke ... but a request for help.*

"Northern Mariana Islands: What's Ours is Yours (and What's Yours is Ours)"

When Vasco joins the crew of Ferdinand Magellan's mission to discover a clear route to the Spice Islands, he counts himself lucky to have joined such a respected crew. But as the mission progresses to the Northern Mariana Islands, it becomes clear that the crew members are the lucky ones who benefit from the unique interpersonal skills this young man offers.*

"American Samoa: Where Important Things Live"*

Although Elei loves her family and wants to honor their wish that she become a nurse, she has other ambitions she’d like to follow. But when she meets the teacher of her first humanities class, Culture of Polynesia, she sees her own Samoan culture in a new light, embracing her experience of the “in between” — and ultimately finding opportunities for herself that she had thought would be just a dream.

*Note for Parents: Elei is what the Samoan people call a “Fa’afafine” or third gender. This occurs predominantly when someone born with a male body identifies as neither traditionally male nor female, but sees themselves as “in between.” Though this is a common and accepted identity in Samoa and most of Polynesia, we recognize that parents may wish to introduce concepts of “third gender” or “transgender” independently.

Note: Though these stories are historical fiction and the characters have been developed to accommodate a story, their attributes and development may be useful as reference points and inspirations.