The Histories Behind the American Thanksgiving(s)

People who come to this blog, and homeschooled people, often learn from Google or other search engines.  The woman who wrote the song Mary Had a Little Lamb, Sarah Josepha Hale, was homeschooled herself.  She made two historic contributions, one was musical and the other was political.  She influenced Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday for many years before it was officially recognized.  Wikipedia reports that she was from New England where people regularly celebrated Thanksgiving for years before it was was proclaimed as the third national holiday in 1863.  George Washington proclaimed the celebration of Thanksgiving in a non-recurring fashion (Business Insider).

The story behind what is commonly regarded as the first Thanksgiving was the peaceful meeting between Native Americans and English colonists who settled in Plymouth, MA.  There is a living history museum for Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts to help people learn more.  The spelling "Plimoth" was acceptable in the 1600s, and that is why the institution uses it (Boston.com).

According to the National Park Service website, Thanksgiving was originally celebrated by Jamestown settlers in Virginia (before Plymouth was settled by English people).  We know that most knowledge of Thanksgiving lends itself to the history in New England with the Pilgrims.  If you visit the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia, another living history museum, you may meet a historical guide who will claim that the story of the Pilgrims (starting in 1620 C.E.) overshadows the earlier story of Jamestown (starting in 1607 C.E.) because of the Civil War.  In other words celebrating Thanksgiving nationwide may have been Lincoln's ploy to help save the Union by honoring the North's history.  The North's history included ending slavery well before the Civil War even started.  Indeed some people think the aversion to the Jamestown Settlement story could have been due to slavery (Big Think).  Several sources say that Thanksgiving was originally celebrated in Virginia.

To learn more about the controversies concerning the history of Thanksgiving and whether it was originally celebrated in Virginia or Massachusetts, feel free to read the following articles:

There are Native American groups who explain a dark side of the history of Thanksgiving.  To read more about them you may want to see this Manataka.org page or this Oyate.org site.  We encourage you to read more and formulate your own opinion about Thanksgiving.  Here is a list of books on the subject:

A Great and Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving
Chronicles of American Indian Protest
Good Newes from New England: A True Relation of Things Very Remarkable at the Plantation of Plimoth in New England
Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth
Of Plymouth Plantation
Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday
Thanksgiving: The True Story
The Thanksgiving Book: A Companion to the Holiday Covering Its History, Lore, Traditions, Foods, and Symbols...
Three Visitors to Early Plymouth: Letters about the Pilgrim Settlement in New England during its First Seven Years

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