How the fourth Thursday in November officially became Thanksgiving

The racist roots of our national celebration

By Christopher Petrella  |

President Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, pardons the Thanksgiving turkey in the Rose Garden of the White House on Tuesday. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Christopher Petrella teaches in the critical race, gender, and culture studies collaborative at American University. He serves as the director of advocacy & strategic partnerships for the Antiracist Research & Policy Center, also at American University.

While many today may see Thanksgiving as simply an opportunity to gather with family or friends — a moment to be free of our frenetic political news cycle — the holiday’s early history was, in fact, marked by intense political meaning, especially in the decades leading up to it becoming a national holiday.

While much of our mainstream historical memory of Thanksgiving focuses on pilgrims and the Wampanoag eating together in 17th-century Plymouth, this omits a crucial chapter in Thanksgiving’s genealogy.

Not until the mid-19th century did the notion of a fixed and national Thanksgiving celebration enter popular discourse in a serious and sustained way. And no one person did more to promote such a vision than novelist and editor Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, known by her hagiographers today as the “Godmother of Thanksgiving.”

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About Cholo Brooks 11083 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.