Who Belongs at the Thanksgiving Table?

Immigration, Religion, and the Four-Hundredth Anniversary of the First Thanksgiving

November 17, 2021
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. EST
Location: Online Zoom Webinar

The four-hundredth anniversaries of the Mayflower landing and the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 2020 and 2021 set the stage for a conversation about national identity at a moment of deep polarization and insecurity. The wake left by the Mayflower is still felt, particularly by Indigenous communities impacted by the loss of land and by African Americans whose ancestors’ subjugation was intertwined with European liberty. Centuries of immigrants who felt excluded because they did not descend from Pilgrim or Puritan stock have also experienced this wake. In the American church, polarized histories cut between and through denominations, exacerbating the intra-Christian “culture war.” Scripture and theology have been used for cross purposes to either welcome or keep out the immigrant.

Building upon on a recent special issue of the Review of Faith & International Affairs on this topic, this webinar provided the opportunity for a candid and constructive conversation among professional historians on the contested legacy of the “first Thanksgiving” of 1621. In a polarized climate where history is so often weaponized, this panel was designed to model deep appreciation for the past combined with constructive self-critique, as well as insight on the implications for contemporary issues of national identity, pluralism, civic solidarity, and immigration. Judd Birdsall moderated the event.

This event was co-sponsored by Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and its Department of History.

This event was recorded and a captioned video will be posted to this page soon.

Disclaimer: Images like the painting above invoke history to shape national identity, but in the process they can misrepresent or distort historical persons and events.

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