The Dark and Divisive History of America’s Thanksgiving HymnBreaking News
In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, millions of Americans in their churches and community celebrations will sing the hymn that has become the de facto anthem of the holiday. “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing,” reads the opening stanza of the familiar song, a line that suggests the pluralistic and communal spirit Americans associate with Thanksgiving. As Pilgrims and Native Americans once dined together, so the myth goes, Americans of all races, religions, and creeds still unite to celebrate the country that welcomes everyone.
Yet the opening line of “We Gather Together,” seemingly an apt expression of inclusiveness and shared thankfulness, momentarily distracts from the larger, quieter message the hymn contains. The song’s lyrics, as well as the dark history that inspired them, point to the sinister tradition of violence and expulsion that also runs through the nation’s story, present even in that first Thanksgiving observation.
Though many now see it as a quintessentially American creation, “We Gather Together” actually originated from the religious strife of 16th-century Europe. Following the 1597 Battle of Turnhout, where a Dutch army led by Prince Maurice of Orange defeated Spanish occupying forces in an area now part of Belgium, the poet Adrianus Valerius wrote “Wilt Heden nu Treden” to commemorate the victory, setting the words to an old Dutch folk melody.
comments powered by Disqus
- George Washington gets romanticized by male biographers. Now a woman has taken him on.
- Can Donald Trump Avoid a War with Iran? History Tells Us To Worry.
- Who Owns History? Connecticut Woman Sues Harvard for Family Photos
- In 1933, two rebellious women bought a home in Virginia’s woods. Then the CIA moved in.
- Historic Iwo Jima footage shows individual Marines amid the larger battle
- Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat Quoted in Washington Post Article on Trump's Quest to Rewrite History
- This one-of-a-kind conference celebrates the real people behind the Underground Railroad
- Zara Steiner, distinguished scholar of diplomatic history, dies at 91
- Historian James T. Kloppenberg Writes Article About Teaching Pete Buttigieg
- How a Fake Priest Duped Oxford and a World-Famous Historian