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.
The American Origin Myth: Remembering the American Revolution with Historian Michael D. Hattem
About the Presenter
Michael D. Hattem is an American historian and author of Past and Prologue: Politics and Memory in the American Revolution (2020). He received his PhD from Yale University and has taught at Knox College in Illinois and The New School in New York City. He is currently associate director of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. His work has been supported by such institutions as the American Philosophical Society, the New-York Historical Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Library Company and has been mentioned in such mainstream publications as the New York Times and TIME.