Educational Editorial: First Thanksgiving

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - This week families across America will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Textbooks and teachers continue to focus young people on the Mayflower, Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock. Is this revisionist history?

Having survived a difficult winter with the help of the local Indians, the Pilgrims held a Thanksgiving in 1621. Two years earlier in 1619, 38 English Colonists landed at Berkley, now in Charles City County, a short ride from Richmond.

Having been told to open their instructions when they landed in the New World, the colonists read, "We ordain that the day of our ships arrival at the place for plantation in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God."

The Pilgrims of the Mayflower Compact had not even set their coordinates when the inhabitants of Berkley were having lunch.

In 1962, Mr. Wicker sent a telegram to President Kennedy challenging his Thanksgiving Proclamation assertion that the first Thanksgiving was held in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Renowned historian and special assistant, Henry Schlesinger, responded, "The President has asked me to respond to your telegram about the Thanksgiving Proclamation statement. You are right, and I can only plead an unconquerable New England bias on the part of the White House staff. We are grateful to you for reminding us of the Berkeley Hundred Thanksgiving: and I assure you that the error will not be repeated in the future."

The textbook publishers must not have gotten this memo.

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