The American Origin Myth: Remembering the American Revolution with Historian Michael D. Hattem

Since the end of the War for Independence, the memory of the Revolution has played a unique role in American politics because it serves as the nation’s “origin myth.” Americans have continually fought over the meaning of the Revolution, and those fights have played an ever-present role in American history. The memory of the Revolution has been claimed by political parties and social movements on the left and right, and has proved so malleable that it can be claimed by such disparate groups as abolitionists and Confederates, communists and anti-communists, civil rights activists and segregationists. Americans’ understandings of the Revolution and its meaning have changed many times and have always been shaped by contemporary circumstances. Drawn from research for Hattem’s forthcoming book, The Memory of '76: The Revolution in American History, this talk explores a few key themes in how the memory of the Revolution has developed and what it means for us today as we approach the 250th anniversary of independence.