The Weekly History Thread

Welcome to this week’s History Thread! Usual rules apply: don’t feel bound by the discussion topic, have fun and try and be respectful.

Today’s discussion topic: Founding and national myths. We’ve discussed variations of this topic before, so apologies for being unoriginal. Still, belatedly getting into Hamilton (something most people did two years ago) made me think about how much of American history is a connective tissue of myths and stories that often bear little relation to reality: Columbus discovered America (he didn’t, but he did enslave and kill plenty of Indians), the Pilgrims ate turkey and befriended Indians (before killing them), the Founders were freedom gods made flesh, the Civil War was a tragic dispute with noble soldiers born of lack of compromise, the Old West was innocent whites fighting murderous Indians, and so forth. Such simplistic views tend to harm and obscure more than they truly help our understanding of history, being designed to make us feel good about ourselves and to spit racist invective whenever black football players kneel during the National Anthem.

Obviously, many of our members are from other countries than the USA, which is even better! Do not feel constrained to discuss America only, as God knows we’re far from the only country with an officially-approved national mythology.

Today’s picture: Today marks the official start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus on December 1st and was formally charged on the 5th. Parks was a leader in the Alabama NAACP and coordinated the protest with local activist E.D. Nixon, leading to a citywide boycott of Montgomery’s public transportation. The boycott was led by the Montgomery Improvement Association, one of whose leaders was a 26 year old priest named Martin Luther King Jr. It lasted for a year as the issue worked its way through the courts, until the Supreme Court ruled the city’s segregation of public transport was unconstitutional.