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Estelle and Melvin Gelman LibraryEckles Library at the Mount Vernon CampusVirginia Science and Technology Campus Library

Interesting Find in the Collection: Thank You Letters to the N.E.A. from Korea

Letter from Chong-kook Kim to Dr. William Carr Thumbnail

War leaves many victims beyond the battlefield. In 1951, the first year of the Korean War destroyed homes, farms and schools, leaving behind deprivation and want in much of the country. Schoolteachers bravely tried to continue classes amidst the chaos, often just setting up a tent in a field. In an effort to assist their professional colleagues abroad, the National Education Association activated the Overseas Teacher Fund. Warm clothing was identified as the greatest single need and, in an entirely voluntary effort, teachers across the United States pitched in to help.

Thankful Koreans teachers and students wrote letters back to express their gratitude. These letters hint at the troubles they face and provide a rare personal glimpse into the lives of civilians suffering through a brutal war. The N.E.A. gathered these letters together and bound them in a unique set of scrapbooks. Nine volumes in all, these books have hand-written letters in English and Korean explaining how they used the gift, translations of select letters and photographs of the writer wearing the new clothes, providing a rare glimpse into the lives of average people during one of the 20th centuries bloodiest wars.

All nine volumes are available to view in the Special Collections Research Center on the 7th floor of Gelman Library. The catalog link can be found here.

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