The history of Thanksgiving is probably not what you think
This week, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving. The holiday has a complicated history.
When, exactly, was the first Thanksgiving? Generations of schoolchildren saw educational films like this one explaining the origins of the holiday.
"Turkey or no turkey, we've still got all the freedoms and privileges the Pilgrims gave us. And out of those privileges have come a lot of things, things the Pilgrims never even dreamed of."
Fact check: The Pilgrims did not have the first Thanksgiving.
"That is such a romanticized version of history. It's also not factual," says Jatia Wrighten at Virginia Commonwealth University. She points out that years before the Pilgrims met at Plymouth Rock, Virginia had Thanksgiving in the year 1619 – a year that we now think of in a much different way because of the 1619 Project.
"For the slaves that were brought here, it was a traumatic year and it continued to be a traumatic experience in the United States," Wrighten says. "For many people who study oppressed groups, 1619 really represents the beginning of chattel slavery in the United States, starting in Virginia. Of course, in school, that was not anything that we were taught."
So, the first Thanksgiving was not the Pilgrims in 1621. And it wasn't even the Virginians in 1619. Spanish colonists celebrated Thanksgiving in Florida as early as the 1500s, a period of colonialism that is also currently experiencing a reconsideration.