Thursday, December 18, 2014



Plymouth, Massachusetts (JFK+50) On December 18, 1620, 394 years ago today, the English merchant ship Mayflower arrived here in Plymouth.

The passengers, 102 men, women and children, included a number of separatists who had broken with the Church of England and sought to start a new life in America.        

According to Robert Tracy McKenzie of the Washington Post, however, in the history of the United States we have portrayed the Pilgrims inaccurately.

The Mayflower at Plymouth Harbor
Painting by William Halsall (1882)
Library of Congress Image

The Landing of the Pilgrims
by Henry A. Bacon (1877)

In his article "Five myths about the Pilgrims" published last year, Mr. McKenzie identifies the following Pilgrim myths...

1. The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock
2. They came to American seeking religious freedom
3. They celebrated the 1st Thanksgiving
4. The Pilgrims were without humor and wore black
5. The Mayflower Compact is a great example of democracy

Addressing the Mythology

1. You can actually see part of the rock under a memorial in Plymouth, Massachusetts today.  But that rock was not identified until 1741, 121 years after the fact and there is no mention of a landing on the rock in Governor William Bradford's famous journal "Of Plimoth Plantation."

2. The Pilgrims first settled in Leiden, Holland but left because they could not maintain their English heritage there nor, probably more importantly, "make a living."  So, religious freedom was not the MAIN motivation in settling in the New World.

3. The Pilgrims were not the FIRST to celebrate a thanksgiving.  The Native American peoples had been practicing that ritual for many moons.

4. The Pilgrims were not totally without humor and preferred dressing in bright colors:  red, blue, green, yellow and orange. 

5. The Mayflower Compact makes reference to the settlers (both saints and strangers) as "loyal subjects of the King."  They created the document to protect themselves legally as they had landed 200 miles north of their destination and out of jurisdiction of the Virginia Company.  The Compact is less democratic than it is "an affirmation of the Divine Right of Kings."

Signing the Mayflower Compact
Painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
Library of Congress Image

Mayflower II Sailor
Plymouth, Massachusetts
Photo by John White (1986)

Mayflower II
Plymouth, Massachusetts
Photo by John White (1986)


"Five myths about the Pilgrims," by Robert Tracy McKenzie, The Washington Post, November 22, 2013,


Albany, Georgia (JFK+50) Following a month of protests and demonstrations in opposition to the city government's segregation policies, an agreement was reached 53 years ago today, December 18, 1961, here in Albany.

City government representatives agreed to desegregate bus and train facilities, release all civil rights demonstrators held in jail, and set up a meeting for local African-American citizens to air their concerns.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told his followers:

"Don't get weary.  We will wear them down with our capacity to suffer."

Protesters in Albany

Shiloh Baptist Church in Albany is the birthplace of the Albany Movement.  It was there that meetings were held that organized the local civil rights movement and where Dr. King spoke to overflowing crowds.

The Albany Movement was led by Dr. William G. Anderson and activists Charles Sherrod, Cordell Reagon and Charles Jones.

Although in the end few concessions were won, Howard Zinn argues...

"In the course of the struggle, the strength of the old order begins to erode, the minds of the people begin to change, the protesters are momentarily defeated but not crushed..."