7. Lincoln played a huge part in making Thanksgiving what it is today.
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More than two hundred years after the Pilgrims arrival, Sarah Josepha Hale, a prominent writer credited with the authorship of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” published a novel featuring the fall tradition of “Thanksgiving” in the spirit of the Pilgrims. After the novel was published in 1827, she lobbied state and federal officials to create a national day of thanks. By 1854, thirty states had adopted her suggestion. Still, she remained committed to the vision of a national holiday. In 1863, on the heels of the Battle of Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln took an interest in Hale’s suggestion. He imagined this national day of thanks as an event to help heal the wounds of the Civil War. Secretary William Seward quickly drafted Lincoln’s proclamation formally institutionalizing Thanksgiving as a national holiday on the last Thursday in November. Thanks, Abe!
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Jay Milbrandt is the author of The Daring Heart of David Livingstone and a professor at Bethel University in Minnesota. He formerly directed the Global Justice Program and served as Senior Fellow in Global Justice with the Nootbaar Institute at Pepperdine University School of Law. He has traveled throughout the world as a lawyer, managing global initiatives in Africa and Southeast Asia, and consulting with organizations engaged in human rights and legal development efforts.
Using first hand sources, years of research, and determination to break down the current understanding of the first Thanksgiving, Milbrant sheds new light on the plight of the Pilgrims. From extreme religious persecution by the Elizabethan Church of England, a daring voyage across the Atlantic, heartbreaking loneliness, starvation and eventual war with natives, Milbrant brings the Pilgrims’ early beginnings to life.
“We live in a time of extremes,” said Milbrandt, “with faith chief among them. As a nation, we’re asking questions about religion as a litmus test for immigration, whether faith is an important characteristic for our leaders and whether symbols of faith, like the Ten Commandments, have a place in public. Many of us believe we were founded as a Christian nation with, perhaps, a divine appointment. This book chronicles those beginnings and challenges the common understanding of history. This is an important story about the contributions of refugees and how their risks and passionate faith brought us where we are today.”
For more information about They Came for Freedom, Jay Milbrandt or his other titles including The Daring Heart of David Livingstone, please visit www.jaymilbrandt.com.