Red, White and Blue Letter Days: Identity, History and the American Calendar

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The Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, Labor Day, Martin Luther King's Birthday, and other celebrations matter to Americans and reflect the state of American local and national politics. Commemorations of cataclysmic events and light, apparently trivial observances mirror American political and cultural life. Both reveal much about the material conditions of the United States and its citizens' identities, historical consciousness, and political attitudes. Lying ...

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Overview

The Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, Labor Day, Martin Luther King's Birthday, and other celebrations matter to Americans and reflect the state of American local and national politics. Commemorations of cataclysmic events and light, apparently trivial observances mirror American political and cultural life. Both reveal much about the material conditions of the United States and its citizens' identities, historical consciousness, and political attitudes. Lying dormant within these festivals is the potential for political consequence, controversy, even transformation. American political fetes remain works in progress, as Americans use historical celebrations as occasions to reinvent themselves and their nation, often with surprising results. In six engaging chapters 'assaying particular political holidays over the course of their histories, Red, White, and Blue Letter Days examines how Americans have shaped and been shaped by their calendar.

Matthew Dennis explores this vast political and cultural terrain, charting how Americans defined their identities through celebration. Independence Day invited African Americans to demand the equality promised in the Declaration of Independence, for example, just as Columbus Day-celebrating the Italian, Catholic explorer-helped immigrants proclaim their legitimacy as Americans. Native Americans too could use public holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Veterans Day, to express dissent or demonstrate their claims to citizenship. Merchants and advertisers colonized the American calendar, moving in to sell their products by linking them, often tenuously, with holiday occasions or casting consumption as a patriotic act.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801436475
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2002
  • Series: 6/30/2008
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Identity, History, and the American Calendar 1
1 Political Fireworks: American Independence Day, 1776-2000 13
2 Haven in a Heartless Calendar: America's Thanksgiving, 1621-2000 81
3 Reinventing America: Columbus Day and Centenary Celebrations of His Voyage of "Discovery," 1792-1992 119
4 Washington, Lincoln, and the Unheroic Presidents' Day 162
5 St. Monday: Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the Celebration of Leisure 217
6 Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday: Inventing an American Tradition 256
Epilogue: The Future of the Past 281
Notes 285
Index 327
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