Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past
by Ray Raphael
AVAILABILITY: Readily Available
Publication Date: September 2004
Publisher: New Press
Binding: Trade Cloth
Topics: UNITED STATES_HISTORY_REVOLUTION, 1775-1783
Description: Did you know that:
The legend of Paul Revere's Ride was invented by a poet in 1861, eighty-six years after the fact?
Thomas Jefferson was not seen as the architect of American equality until Abraham Lincoln assigned him that role four score and seven years later?
Molly Pitcher, the revolutionary heroine whose picture adorns current textbooks, is a complete fabrication?
In 'Founding Myths,' noted author and historian Ray Raphael examines thirteen well-known tales of America's struggle for independence whose authenticity has been disproved by recent scholarship. Strangely out of sync with both the communitarian ideals of revolutionary America and the democratic values of today, these stories of America's creation reflect instead the romantic individualism of the nineteenth century, when most of them were created. Despite their narrative appeal, Raphael argues, they sell the U.S. short. Only by laying these myths bare can we understand and appreciate the popular spirit that propelled America to independence.
A provocative revision of America's birth, 'Founding Myths' redefines the roots of U.S. patriotism.
Ray Raphael has taught at a one-room public high school, Humboldt State University, and College of the Redwoods. His twelve books include 'A People's History of the American Revolution' and 'The First American Revolution'. He lives in Humboldt County, California.
Review(s): "Engaging and eye-opening!" - The Sacramento Bee
"Debunking that does not disappoint." - Baltimore's City Paper
“Ray Raphael is at his iconoclastic best in this book, demolishing historical nonsense, suggesting a new patriotism based on truth rather than myth.” - Howard Zinn
"Author of 'A People's History of the American Revolution,' Raphael once again turns to that period, aiming to punctuate popular perceptions deriving from the 19th century's penchant for solitary romantic agents. He focuses on 13 stories revolving around either mythical or genuine figures and events, including Paul Revere's ride, Molly Pitcher's battlefield heroics, Sam Adams as the supposed architect of independence, the shot heard 'round the world, the Valley Forge winter, the lauded generation of the Founding Fathers, and the presumed denouement at Yorktown of a global conflict that continued elsewhere.
Curiously, the fabricated tale of flag-maker Betsy Ross is not included as a separate entry. Raphael buttresses his points by introducing each chapter with iconic illustrations by Jonathan Trumbull, John Singleton Copley, Howard Pyle, and others. Amply annotated, this anthology underscores the idea that knowing the truth about numerous anonymous players rather than holding to elaborate story lines is more empowering for a starkly realistic age." - Library Journal
"Patrick Henry never said, 'Give me liberty or give me death!' In fact, no record exists of what he said in his powerful call to arms of March 23, 1775. And Molly Pitcher never took her husband's place at a cannon after he fell at the Battle of Monmouth. Historian Raphael dissects these and 11 other myths of the American Revolution to uncover the truth of these famous events and the significance of their conversion into myth. These tales, argues Raphael, represent 19th-century ideals of 'romantic individualism' more than the communitarian ideals of the revolutionary era. Raphael (A People's History of the American Revolution) continues in his populist vein by arguing that these myths, rather than encouraging patriotism and heroism, actually 'take away our power,' leaving us 'in awe of superhuman stars' like Washington or Jefferson and 'discouraging ordinary citizens from acting on their own behalf.' This is arguable, but advocates of history as seen from below will find the author's point of view appealing. And all students of American history will find Raphael's correction of the historical record instructive and enjoyable." - Publishers Weekly