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.
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.
Introduction Exploring the Myths * Invented Traditions * Myths and History * Ancestors and Commemoration Articulating the Myths * Lady Rebecca or the Forest Siren? * The Landing of the Forefathers * Vanishing Indians and Noble Women * Compact with Destiny Combating the Myths * Saints and Sinners * Prelude to Battle * The Pilgrims Versus Pocahontas Transforming the Myths * The Pilgrims Triumphant * The Myths Triumphant