The Pilgrims and Pocahontas: Rival Myths of American Origin

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Overview

Following the American Revolution, citizens of the United States began to write a history of their new nation starting with the first English settlements, Jamestown and Plymouth. Virginians embellished the saga of Jamestown and Pocahontas, the Indian woman who, by popular accounts, saved the colony. Similarly, New Englanders sanctified the Pilgrims and their mythical first step on Plymouth Rock.By comparing these two origin myths, investigating them in art, literature, and popular memory, Ann Uhry Abrams uncovers surprising similarities in traditions of remembrance as well as striking differences in the character of the myths and the messages they convey. During these heated debates of antebellum America, the escalating rivalry between North and South prompted an array of artists, authors, and politicians to refashion the legends to their needs, with Massachusetts turning the settlers of Plymouth into pious and industrious saints, Virginians portraying Pocahontas as the savior of English civilization in North America. As these images were codified, tales of Jamestown and Plymouth bolstered debates over immigration, women’s rights, abolition, Indian removal, and a host of other issues of national import. And when sectional rifts exploded into the Civil War, the stories fueled the flames that pitted North against South.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Art historian Abrams traces how the two founding myths have been expressed in art, literature, and popular literature, finding surprising similarities between them as well as the expected differences. She shows how they were invoked in debates concerning immigration, women's rights, abolition, Indian removal, and other national issues, and how the stories fueled the flames of the Civil War. She includes many black-and-white reproductions. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813334974
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/1999
  • Pages: 378
  • Lexile: 1630L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Uhry Abrams taught art history at Pelman College, Georgia State University, Agnes Scott College and Emory University and is the author of The Valiant Hero: Benjamin West and Grand-Style History Painting.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface: Finding the Myths
Pt. 1 Exploring the Myths
1 Invented Traditions 3
2 Myths and History 15
3 Ancestors and Commemoration 35
Pt. 2 Articulating the Myths
4 Lady Rebecca or the Forest Siren? 51
5 The Landing of the Forefathers 73
6 Vanishing Indians and Noble Women 109
7 Compact with Destiny 139
Pt. 3 Combating the Myths
8 Saints and Sinners 165
9 Prelude to Battle 193
10 The Pilgrims Versus Pocahontas 221
Pt. 4 Transforming the Myths
11 The Pilgrims Triumphant 245
12 The Myths Triumphant 261
Notes 283
Selected Bibliography 347
Index 363
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