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Do you see the Pilgrims as folksy people in funny hats? The true story of the Pilgrims’ great journey to America was one of courageous faith, daring escape, and tenuous survival. Theirs is the story of refugees who fled intense religious persecution.
Bible Gateway interviewed Jay Milbrandt (@JayMilbrandt) about his book, They Came for Freedom: The Forgotten, Epic Adventure of the Pilgrims (Thomas Nelson, 2017).
Lawyer - Elements - Book
As a lawyer and historian, how have you joined those two elements in writing this book?
Jay Milbrandt: A lawyer is a storyteller. It’s our job to understand and explain the facts. I see my role as an author as much like that of the judge in a jury trial. I’m dealing with a variety of perspectives and trying to make sure the jury/reader gets a fair and accurate case. I find I’m constantly applying legal concepts—like the rules of evidence—to history. I like finding topics that have been subject to misinterpretation; then I try to tell a fact-based story and let the reader come to their own conclusions.
Pilgrim - Story - Become - Misunderstood
How has the Pilgrim story become misunderstood?
Jay Milbrandt: We have a mental picture of the Pilgrims: funny hats, dining on cornucopias overflowing with food at the first Thanksgiving. Nothing in that image is true. There was no “First Thanksgiving,” as we want to believe it happened, and the Pilgrims were starving, rationing their food, and wearing tattered clothes. Over time, the retelling of the story combined several Pilgrim events to fit into our modern holiday. In fact, Thanksgiving as a holidy was created 200 years after the Pilgrims’ arrival, at the close of the Civil War to promote national unity. The notion of Thanksgiving and the Pilgrim identity has also been subject to intense secularization. The Pilgrims’ quest for freedom and their “thanksgiving” event were deeply religious. That motivation has...
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