Olivia's Genealogy Site: LEGENDS LIES AND CHERISHED MYTHS
OF AMERICAN HISTORY
|This Web page is based on research of records known to be valid from State records, Federal records, manuscripts, and private papers. Book research/written by Richard Shenkman|
LEGENDS LIES AND CHERISHED MYTHS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York
The articles are copied directly from the book.
"Columbus, of course, is still commonly regarded as the modern discoverer of America, but not by everybody. Some believe John Cabot deserves the title……..But if Columbus may deserve to be called the first modern discoverer of America, he probably shouldn't be embraced uncritically. For while he was undoubtedly a great man, he wasn't necessarily a good man. Unbeknown to much of the public, he was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Arawak Indians on Haiti. One historian even believes Columbus should be thought of not as a hero but as a murderer.
His first encounter with the Arawaks could not have gone better. He himself wrote that the natives on the island " are so naïve and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone."
Columbus, however, did not reciprocate the Indian" kindness. Under pressure to bring back riches to Spain, he required Indians over fourteen years old to make regular contributions of gold. Indians who did not comply, according to historian Howard Zinn, "had their hands cut off and bled to death."
Those Indians who weren't killed were often enslaved and shipped to Spain. On one trip, 500 Arawak men, women, and children were loaded onto ships bound for the Old World; during the voyage 200 died. Far from feeling guilty about the practice of slavery, Columbus boasted about it. "Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity," he wrote, "go on sending all the slaves that can be sold." Within two years of Columbus' arrival, says Zinn, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti had died "through murder, mutilation or suicide." Under Columbus's Spanish sucessors the mistreatment continued. In 1515 only 500 remained. By 1650 there were none. ( 5)
Yet such is the desire for heroes Columbus will probably always be revered. Morison says he ought to be, for although he had his faults, "they were largely the defects of the qualities that made him great……" Haiti's Arawaks might feel different. But they aren't around to protest. (pp. 15 and 16)
5 Howard Zinn, A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES (1980), pp. 1-8
II. "Balboa's chief legacy consists almost entirely in the sordid and vicious record he left while blazing his way across Central America to the Pacific. Among other things, he virtually wiped out a village of Indians because the chief like to dress up in women's clothes. Six hundred people were killed, most by Balboa's man-eating dogs. Balboa himself didn't survive long afterward. After sighting the Pacific, he became entangled in a power struggle with other Europeans for the control of Central America and in 1517 was hanged. 8 Page 18
8 Charles E. Nowell, "The Discovery of the Pacific: A Suggested Change of Approach," PACIFIC HISTORICAL REVIEW (February 1947). Pp. 1-10
III. "The story about Pocahontas's saving Smith's life is a matter of dispute. Smith first related the story ten years after it had supposedly happened. When he did, no one stepped forward to corroborate the tale. Furthermore, he told it at a suspiciously opportune moment in 1616, when Pocahontas, then the celebrated wife of Virginia planter John Rolfe, was being courted by the British royal family. Even Smith's defenders admit he probably brought the story up in order to ingratiate himself with the crown. When Pocahontas appeared at court, Smith sent the queen a little book explaining how the young Indian had "hazarded the beating out of her own brains to save mine."3 page 114
3 Dixon Wector, pp. 17-25; Alvin M. Josephy, ed., THE AMERICAN HERITAGE BOOK OF INDIANS (1982), p. 165; Alden Vaughan, "Beyond Pocahontas," New York Times Book Review (June 29, 1986), pp. 27-28
IV. "It may be that the Black man only could have won the esteem of racists if, like the North American Indian, he had proved impossible to enslave and had died in the process. In the racists' lexicon, self-inflicted genocide would have been morally superior to survival.
The comparison with the Indians is, by the way, based on an old fallacy. It is supposed that Indians as a people could not be enslaved. The truth is that only North American Indians--largely nomadic---proved resistant. Indians in Latin America who came from strong agricultural communities were often enslaved successfully by the Spanish and Portuguese. 5 pp. 124-125
4 John W. Blassingame, ATHE SLAVE COMMUNITY (1972), p. 2.
V. "Thanksgiving is the source of bountiful misconceptions. Though we celebrate this holiday in November, no one knows precisely when the first Thanksgiving took place since none of the surviving Pilgrim records say anything more than that it occurred in the autumn of 1621. At any rate, the holiday was not an annual Pilgrim event. It was not even firmly fixed as a fall festival. In 1623, according to one schjolar's best estimate, it was celebrated in July.
More surprising, the first Thanksgiving wasn't a family celebration. More like a huge community picnic, it lasted for about a week and was attended by more than ninety Indians. Above all, it was an occasion for celebration and recreation. Schjolars say it wasn't a religious holiday. The Pilgrims wouldn't have tolerated festivities at a truly religious time.
Whether turkeys were eaten is anybody's guess. Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford's journal doesn't say one way or the other. Neither do any others.
Opinion is divided about the other things they ate. Robert Myers asserts confidently that they had duck, goose, seafood, eels, white bread, corn bread, leeks, watercress, a variety of greens, and for dessert, wild plums and dried berries. Roland Usher says they had hasty pudding. Where Myers and Usher came by their information, they don't say. Actually, all that is known for sure is that the Pilgrims had "fowl" and "deer." 3 pp. 140-141
3 The only direct testimony available about the first Thanksgiving is contained in a letter Edward Winslow wrote to a friend in England on December 11, 1621. The part of the letter concerning Thanksgiving reads in its entirety as follows: "Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labours. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king, Massasoit with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted. And they went out and killed five deer which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our Governor and upon the Captain and other." The letter is quoted in William Bradford, OF PLYMOUTH PLANTATION; 1620-1647, ed. Samuel Eliot Morison (1952), p. 90 n. See also William Deloss Love, Jr. THE FAST AND THANKSGIVING DAYS OF NEW ENGLAND (1895), pp. 70-75; Robert J. Myers, CELEBRATIONS: THE COMPLETE BOOK OF AMERICAN HOLIDAYS (1972), p. 276; and Roland G. Usher, THE PILGRIMS AND THEIR HISTORY (1920), p. 93.