Nobody celebrates Thanksgiving quite like Americans
celebrate Thanksgiving. It is reserved by history and the intent
of “the founders” as the supremely white American holiday, the
most ghoulish event on the national calendar. No Halloween of
the imagination can rival the exterminationist reality that was
the genesis, and remains the legacy, of the American Thanksgiving.
It is the most loathsome, humanity-insulting day of the year –
a pure glorification of racist barbarity.
We at BC
are thankful that the day grows nearer when the almost four centuries-old
abomination will be deprived of its reason for being: white supremacy.
Then we may all eat and drink in peace and gratitude for the blessings
of humanity’s deliverance from the rule of evil men.
Thanksgiving is much more than a lie – if it were
that simple, an historical correction of the record of events
in 1600s Massachusetts would suffice to purge the “flaw” in the
national mythology. But Thanksgiving is not just a twisted fable,
and the mythology it nurtures is itself inherently evil. The real-life
events – subsequently revised – were perfectly understood at the
time as the first, definitive triumphs of the genocidal European
project in New England. The near-erasure of Native Americans in
Massachusetts and, soon thereafter, from most of the remainder
of the northern English colonial seaboard was the true mission
of the Pilgrim enterprise – Act One of the American Dream. African
Slavery commenced contemporaneously – an overlapping and ultimately
inseparable Act Two.
The last Act in the American drama must be the
“root and branch” eradication of all vestiges of Act One and Two
– America’s seminal crimes and formative projects. Thanksgiving
as presently celebrated – that is, as a national political
event – is an affront to civilization.
Celebrating the unspeakable
White America embraced Thanksgiving because a majority
of that population glories in the fruits, if not the unpleasant
details, of genocide and slavery and feels, on the whole, good
about their heritage: a cornucopia of privilege and national power.
Children are taught to identify with the good fortune of the Pilgrims.
It does not much matter that the Native American and African holocausts
that flowed from the feast at Plymouth are hidden from the children’s
version of the story – kids learn soon enough that Indians were
made scarce and Africans became enslaved. But they will also never
forget the core message of the holiday: that the Pilgrims were
good people, who could not have purposely set such evil in motion.
Just as the first Thanksgivings marked the consolidation of the
English toehold in what became the United States, the core ideological
content of the holiday serves to validate all that has since occurred
on these shores – a national consecration of the unspeakable,
a balm and benediction for the victors, a blessing of the fruits
of murder and kidnapping, and an implicit obligation to continue
the seamless historical project in the present day.
The Thanksgiving story is an absolution of the
Pilgrims, whose brutal quest for absolute power in the New World
is made to seem both religiously motivated and eminently human.
Most importantly, the Pilgrims are depicted as victims
– of harsh weather and their own naïve yet wholesome visions of
a new beginning. In light of this carefully nurtured fable, whatever
happened to the Indians, from Plymouth to California and beyond,
in the aftermath of the 1621 dinner must be considered a mistake,
the result of misunderstandings – at worst, a series of lamentable
tragedies. The story provides the essential first frame of the
American saga. It is unalloyed racist propaganda, a tale that
endures because it served the purposes of a succession of the
Pilgrims’ political heirs, in much the same way that Nazi-enhanced
mythology of a glorious Aryan/German past advanced another murderous,
Thanksgiving is quite dangerous – as were the Pilgrims.
Rejoicing in a cemetery
The English settlers, their ostensibly religious
venture backed by a trading company, were glad to discover that
they had landed in a virtual cemetery in 1620. Corn still sprouted
in the abandoned fields of the
Wampanoags, but only a remnant of the local population remained
around the fabled Rock. In a letter to England, Massachusetts
Bay colony founder John Winthrop wrote, "But for the natives
in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space
the greatest part of them are swept away by smallpox which still
continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title
to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not
50, have put themselves under our protection."
Ever diligent to claim their own advantages as
God’s will, the Pilgrims thanked their deity for having “pursued”
the Indians to mass death. However, it was not divine intervention
that wiped out most of the natives around the village of Patuxet
but, most likely, smallpox-embedded blankets planted during an
English visit or slave raid. Six years before the Pilgrim landing,
a ship sailed into Patuxet’s harbor, captained by none other than
the famous seaman and mercenary soldier
John Smith, former leader of the first successful English
colony in the New World, at Jamestown, Virginia. Epidemic and
slavery followed in his wake, as Debra Glidden described in
In 1614 the Plymouth Company of England, a joint
stock company, hired Captain John Smith to explore land in its
behalf. Along what is now the coast of Massachusetts in the
territory of the Wampanoag, Smith visited the town of Patuxet
according to "The Colonial Horizon," a 1969 book edited
by William Goetzinan. Smith renamed the town Plymouth in honor
of his employers, but the Wampanoag who inhabited the town continued
to call it Patuxet.
The following year Captain Hunt, an English slave
trader, arrived at Patuxet. It was common practice for explorers
to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them into slavery
for 220 shillings apiece. That practice was described in a 1622
account of happenings entitled "A Declaration of the State
of the Colony and Affairs in Virginia," written by Edward
Waterhouse. True to the explorer tradition, Hunt kidnapped a
number of Wampanoags to sell into slavery.
Another common practice among European explorers
was to give "smallpox blankets" to the Indians. Since
smallpox was unknown on this continent prior to the arrival
of the Europeans, Native Americans did not have any natural
immunity to the disease so smallpox would effectively wipe out
entire villages with very little effort required by the Europeans.
William Fenton describes how Europeans decimated Native American
villages in his 1957 work "American Indian and White relations
to 1830." From 1615 to 1619 smallpox ran rampant among
the Wampanoags and their neighbors to the north. The Wampanoag
lost 70 percent of their population to the epidemic and the
Massachusetts lost 90 percent.
Most of the Wampanoag had died from the smallpox
epidemic so when the Pilgrims arrived they found well-cleared
fields which they claimed for their own. A Puritan colonist,
quoted by Harvard University's Perry Miller, praised the plague
that had wiped out the Indians for it was "the wonderful
preparation of the Lord Jesus Christ, by his providence for
his people's abode in the Western world."
Historians have since speculated endlessly on why
the woods in the region resembled a park to the disembarking Pilgrims
in 1620. The reason should have been obvious: hundreds, if not
thousands, of people had lived there just five years before.
In less than three generations the settlers would
turn all of New England into a charnel house for Native Americans,
and fire the economic engines of slavery throughout English-speaking
America. Plymouth Rock is the place where the nightmare truly
is not at all clear what happened at the first – and only – “integrated”
Thanksgiving feast. Only two written accounts of the three-day
event exist, and one of them, by Governor William Bradford, was
written 20 years after the fact. Was Chief Massasoit invited to
bring 90 Indians with him to dine with 52 colonists, most of them
women and children? This seems unlikely. A good harvest had provided
the settlers with plenty of food, according to their accounts,
so the whites didn’t really need the Wampanoag’s offering of five
deer. What we do know is that there had been lots of tension between
the two groups that fall. John Two-Hawks, who runs the
Native Circle web site, gives a sketch of the facts:
“Thanksgiving' did not begin as a great loving
relationship between the pilgrims and the Wampanoag, Pequot
and Narragansett people. In fact, in October of 1621 when
the pilgrim survivors of their first winter in Turtle Island
sat down to share the first unofficial 'Thanksgiving' meal,
the Indians who were there were not even invited! There
was no turkey, squash, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie.
A few days before this alleged feast took place, a company of
'pilgrims' led by Miles Standish actively sought the head of
a local Indian chief, and an 11 foot high wall was erected around
the entire Plymouth settlement for the very purpose of keeping
It is much more likely that Chief Massasoit either
crashed the party, or brought enough men to ensure that he was
not kidnapped or harmed by the Pilgrims. Dr. Tingba Apidta, in
his “Black Folks’ Guide to Understanding Thanksgiving,” surmises
that the settlers “brandished their weaponry” early and got drunk
soon thereafter. He notes that “each Pilgrim drank at least a
half gallon of beer a day, which they preferred even to water.
This daily inebriation led their governor, William Bradford, to
comment on his people's ‘notorious sin,’ which included their
‘drunkenness and uncleanliness’ and rampant ‘sodomy.’”
Soon after the feast the brutish Miles
Standish “got his bloody prize,” Dr. Apidta writes:
“He went to the Indians, pretended to be a trader,
then beheaded an Indian man named Wituwamat. He brought the
head to Plymouth, where it was displayed on a wooden spike for
many years, according to Gary B. Nash, ‘as a symbol of white
power.’ Standish had the Indian man's young brother hanged from
the rafters for good measure. From that time on, the whites
were known to the Indians of Massachusetts by the name ‘Wotowquenange,’
which in their tongue meant cutthroats and stabbers.”
What is certain is that the first feast was not
called a “Thanksgiving” at the time; no further integrated dining
occasions were scheduled; and the first, official all-Pilgrim
“Thanksgiving” had to wait until 1637, when the whites of New
England celebrated the massacre of the Wampanoag’s southern neighbors,
The real Thanksgiving Day Massacre
The Pequots today own the Foxwood Casino and Hotel,
in Ledyard, Connecticut, with gross gaming revenues of over $9
billion in 2000. This is truly a (very belated) miracle, since
the real first Pilgrim Thanksgiving was intended as the Pequot’s
epitaph. Sixteen years after the problematical Plymouth feast,
the English tried mightily to erase the Pequots from the face
of the Earth, and thanked God for the blessing.
Having subdued, intimidated or made mercenaries
of most of the tribes of Massachusetts, the English turned their
growing force southward, toward the rich Connecticut valley, the
Pequot’s sphere of influence. At the point where the Mystic River
meets the sea, the combined force of English and allied Indians
bypassed the Pequot fort to attack and set ablaze a town full
of women, children and old people.
William Bradford, the former Governor of Plymouth
and one of the chroniclers of the 1621 feast, was also on hand
for the great massacre of 1637:
"Those that escaped the fire were slain
with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with
their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very
few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400
at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying
in the fire...horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but
the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers
thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus
to enclose their enemies in their hands, and give them so speedy
a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy."
The rest of the white folks thought so, too. “This
day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing
the Pequots," read Governor John Winthrop’s proclamation.
The authentic Thanksgiving Day was born.
Most historians believe about 700 Pequots were
slaughtered at Mystic. Many prisoners were executed, and surviving
women and children sold into slavery in the West Indies. Pequot
prisoners that escaped execution were parceled out to Indian tribes
allied with the English. The Pequot were thought to have been
extinguished as a people. According to
IndyMedia, “The Pequot tribe numbered 8,000 when the Pilgrims
arrived, but disease had brought their numbers down to 1,500 by
1637. The Pequot ‘War’ killed all but a handful of remaining members
of the tribe.”
But there were still too many Indians around to
suit the whites of New England, who bided their time while their
own numbers increased to critical, murderous mass.
Guest’s head on a pole
By the 1670s the colonists, with 8,000 men under
arms, felt strong enough to demand that the Pilgrims’ former dinner
guests the Wampanoags disarm and submit to the authority of the
Crown. After a series of settler provocations in 1675, the Wampanoag
struck back, under the leadership of Chief Metacomet, son of Massasoit,
called King Philip by the English. Metacomet/Philip, whose wife
and son were captured and sold into West Indian slavery, wiped
out 13 settlements and killed 600 adult white men before the tide
of battle turned. A 1996
issue of the Revolutionary Worker provides an excellent narrative.
In their victory, the settlers launched an all-out
genocide against the remaining Native people. The Massachusetts
government offered 20 shillings bounty for every Indian scalp,
and 40 shillings for every prisoner who could be sold into slavery.
Soldiers were allowed to enslave any Indian woman or child under
14 they could capture. The "Praying Indians" who had
converted to Christianity and fought on the side of the European
troops were accused of shooting into the treetops during battles
with "hostiles." They were enslaved or killed. Other
"peaceful" Indians of Dartmouth and Dover were invited
to negotiate or seek refuge at trading posts – and were sold
onto slave ships.
It is not known how many Indians were sold into
slavery, but in this campaign, 500 enslaved Indians
were shipped from Plymouth alone. Of the 12,000 Indians in the
surrounding tribes, probably about half died from battle, massacre
After King Philip's War, there were almost no
Indians left free in the northern British colonies. A colonist
wrote from Manhattan's New York colony: "There is now but
few Indians upon the island and those few no ways hurtful. It
is to be admired how strangely they have decreased by the hand
of God, since the English first settled in these parts."
In Massachusetts, the colonists declared a "day of public
thanksgiving" in 1676, saying, "there now scarce remains
a name or family of them [the Indians] but are either slain,
captivated or fled."
Fifty-five years after the original Thanksgiving
Day, the Puritans had destroyed the generous Wampanoag and all
other neighboring tribes. The Wampanoag chief King Philip was
beheaded. His head was stuck on a pole in Plymouth, where the
skull still hung on display 24 years later.
This is not thought to be a fit Thanksgiving tale
for the children of today, but it’s the real story, well-known
to the settler children of New England at the time – the white
kids who saw the Wampanoag head on the pole year after year and
knew for certain that God loved them best of all, and that every
atrocity they might ever commit against a heathen, non-white was
There’s a good term for the process thus set in
Roots of the slave trade
The British North American colonists’ practice
of enslaving Indians for labor or direct sale to the West Indies
preceded the appearance of the first chained Africans at the dock
in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. The Jamestown colonists’ human
transaction with the Dutch vessel was an unscheduled occurrence.
However, once the African slave trade became commercially established,
the fates of Indians and Africans in the colonies became inextricably
entwined. New England, born of up-close-and-personal, burn-them-in-the-fires-of-hell
genocide, led the political and commercial development of the
English colonies. The region also led the nascent nation’s descent
into a slavery-based society and economy.
Ironically, an apologist for Virginian slavery
made one of the best, early cases for the indictment of New England
as the engine of the American slave trade. Unreconstructed secessionist
Lewis Dabney’s 1867 book “A Defense of Virginia” traced the slave
trade’s origins all the way back to Plymouth Rock:
The planting of the commercial States of North
America began with the colony of Puritan Independents at Plymouth,
in 1620, which was subsequently enlarged into the State of Massachusetts.
The other trading colonies, Rhode Island and Connecticut, as
well as New Hampshire (which never had an extensive shipping
interest), were offshoots of Massachusetts. They partook of
the same characteristics and pursuits; and hence, the example
of the parent colony is taken here as a fair representation
The first ship from America, which embarked in
the African slave trade, was the Desire, Captain Pierce,
of Salem; and this was among the first vessels ever built in
the colony. The promptitude with which the "Puritan Fathers"
embarked in this business may be comprehended, when it is stated
that the Desire sailed upon her voyage in June, 1637.
[Note: the year they massacred the Pequots.] The first feeble
and dubious foothold was gained by the white man at Plymouth
less than seventeen years before; and as is well known, many
years were expended by the struggle of the handful of settlers
for existence. So that it may be correctly said, that the commerce
of New England was born of the slave trade; as its subsequent
prosperity was largely founded upon it. The Desire, proceeding
to the Bahamas, with a cargo of "dry fish and strong liquors,
the only commodities for those parts," obtained the negroes
from two British men-of-war, which had captured them from a
Thus, the trade of which the good ship Desire,
of Salem, was the harbinger, grew into grand proportions; and
for nearly two centuries poured a flood of wealth into New England,
as well as no inconsiderable number of slaves. Meanwhile, the
other maritime colonies of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,
and Connecticut, followed the example of their elder sister
emulously; and their commercial history is but a repetition
of that of Massachusetts. The towns of Providence, Newport,
and New Haven became famous slave trading ports. The magnificent
harbor of the second, especially, was the favorite starting-place
of the slave ships; and its commerce rivaled, or even exceeded,
that of the present commercial metropolis, New York. All the
four original States, of course, became slaveholding.
The Revolution that exploded in 1770s New England
was undertaken by men thoroughly imbued with the worldview of
the Indian-killer and slave-holder. How could they not be? The
“country” they claimed as their own was fathered by genocide and
mothered by slavery – its true distinction among the commercial
nations of the world. And these men were not ashamed, but proud,
with vast ambition to spread their exceptional characteristics
West and South and wherever their so-far successful project in
nation-building might take them – and by the same bloody, savage
methods that had served them so well in the past.
At the moment of deepest national crisis following
the battle of Gettysburg in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln invoked
the national fable that is far more central to the white American
personality than Lincoln’s battlefield “Address.” Lincoln seized
upon the 1621 feast as the historic “Thanksgiving” – bypassing
the official and authentic 1637 precedent – and assigned the dateless,
murky event the fourth Thursday in November.
Lincoln surveyed a broken nation, and attempted
nation-rebuilding, based on the purest white myth. The same year
that he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, he renewed the national
commitment to a white manifest destiny that began at Plymouth
Rock. Lincoln sought to rekindle a shared national mission that
former Confederates and Unionists and white immigrants from Europe
could collectively embrace. It was and remains a barbaric and
racist national unifier, by definition. Only the most fantastic
lies can sanitize the history of the Plymouth Colony of Massachusetts.
”Like a rock”
The Thanksgiving holiday fable is at once a window
on the way that many, if not most, white Americans view the world
and their place in it, and a pollutant that leaches barbarism
into the modern era. The fable attempts to glorify the indefensible,
to enshrine an era and mission that represent the nation’s lowest
moral denominators. Thanksgiving as framed in the mythology
is, consequently, a drag on that which is potentially civilizing
in the national character, a crippling, atavistic deformity. Defenders
of the holiday will claim that the politically-corrected children’s
version promotes brotherhood, but that is an impossibility – a
bald excuse to prolong the worship of colonial “forefathers” and
to erase the crimes they committed. Those bastards burned the
Pequot women and children, and ushered in the multinational business
of slavery. These are facts. The myth is an insidious diversion
– and worse.
Humanity cannot tolerate a 21st Century superpower,
much of whose population perceives the world through the eyes
of 17th Century land and flesh bandits. Yet that is the trick
that fate has played on the globe. We described the roots of the
planetary dilemma in our March 13, 2003 commentary, “Racism
& War, Perfect Together.”
The English arrived with criminal intent - and
brought wives and children to form new societies predicated
on successful plunder. To justify the murderous enterprise,
Indians who had initially cooperated with the squatters were
transmogrified into "savages" deserving displacement
and death. The relentlessly refreshed lie of Indian savagery
became a truth in the minds of white Americans, a fact to
be acted upon by every succeeding generation of whites.
The settlers became a singular people confronting the great
"frontier" - a euphemism for centuries of genocidal
campaigns against a darker, "savage" people marked
The necessity of genocide was the operative,
working assumption of the expanding American nation. "Manifest
Destiny" was born at Plymouth Rock and Jamestown, later
to fall (to paraphrase Malcolm) like a rock on Mexico, the Philippines,
Haiti, Nicaragua, etc. Little children were taught that the
American project was inherently good, Godly, and that those
who got in the way were "evil-doers" or just plain
subhuman, to be gloriously eliminated. The lie is central to
white American identity, embraced by waves of European settlers
who never saw a red person.
Only a century ago, American soldiers caused the
deaths of possibly a million Filipinos whom they had been sent
to “liberate” from Spanish rule. They didn’t even know who they
were killing, and so rationalized their behavior by substituting
the usual American victims. Colonel Funston, of the Twentieth
Kansas Volunteers, explained what got him motivated in the Philippines:
"Our fighting blood was up and we all wanted
to kill 'niggers.' This shooting human beings is a 'hot game,'
and beats rabbit hunting all to pieces." Another wrote
that "the boys go for the enemy as if they were chasing
jack-rabbits .... I, for one, hope that Uncle Sam will apply
the chastening rod, good, hard, and plenty, and lay it on until
they come into the reservation and promise to be good 'Injuns.'"
Our military leaders in Iraq continue to personify
the unfitness of Americans to play a major role in the world,
much less rule it.
What does this have to do with the Mayflower? Everything.
Although possibly against their wishes, the Pilgrims hosted the
Wampanoag for three no doubt anxious days. The same men killed
and enslaved Wampanoags immediately before and after the feast.
They, their newly arrived English comrades and their children
roasted hundreds of neighboring Indians alive just 16 years later,
and two generations afterwards cleared nearly the whole of New
England of its indigenous “savages,” while enthusiastically enriching
themselves through the invention of transoceanic, sophisticated
means of enslaving millions. The Mayflower’s cultural heirs are
programmed to find glory in their own depravity and savagery in
their most helpless victims, who can only redeem themselves by
accepting the inherent goodness of white Americans.
Thanksgiving encourages these cognitive cripples
in their madness, just as it is designed to do.
Things are looking up
We began this essay by saying that “the day grows
nearer when the almost four centuries-old abomination [Thanksgiving]
will be deprived of its reason for being: white supremacy.” We
firmly believe this. The wired world works against the Bushites
insane leap to global hegemony, while creating the material basis
for (dare we say the words) brother- and sisterhood among humankind.
It becomes clear that the fruits of millennia of human genius
cannot be captured and packaged for the enrichment of a few for
much longer – and certainly not by a cabal that cannot see beyond
the bubble of its own, warped history. The dim outlines of a new
and more democratic world order can be seen in the often tentative,
but sometimes dramatic actions of movements and nations determined
to construct a fairer way to live. As the world witnesses the
brutality, stupidity and sheer incompetence of the Pirates currently
at the helm of the United States, the urgency of a common, alternative
human project becomes apparent to all. The “end of history”
that the Bushites triumphantly announce is really the end of them,
through a process they have accelerated with every deranged action
and delusional strategy they have undertaken since 2001.
They are like men in quicksand. White racism as
a global scourge will sink with them, and eventually whither to
a mere prejudice rather than a world-threatening menace.
We at BC
are thankful to be alive in the knowledge that a new world is
just over the horizon, close enough to sense, even if we never
We are optimistic about our struggle in the United
States – if not, we would never encourage anybody to fight and
struggle for anything.
We are thankful for our hope that Barack Obama
is the real thing and a genuine social democrat who will with
our support and criticism push the envelope in civilized directions.
We are thankful we can renew our confidence in
African Americans, citizens of the African World and all other
people of good will who will continue to be part of the movement
for economic justice, social justice and peace.
Finally, we are sincerely thankful for all BC
readers who have shown their support for our role in
the movement by contributing financially to the existance of our
publication. We continue to need your support. Please click here
to make a contribution right now!
Note the original version of this commentary
was published by BC on November 27, 2003 in Issue
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