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Bloody Origins of Thanksgiving Continue to Push Some Black Families Away from the Table

Every year American families gather around their dinner tables to celebrate what many still believe was a joyful feast between Pilgrims and Native Americans, but for some Black families the holiday has taken on a new meaning based on the dark reality of its true origins.

Thanksgiving has become the holiday that some authors have referred to as “cultural propaganda” because the traditional tale about the day of giving varies greatly from what many historians believe to be true.

Most American school children will learn a heartwarming story of Pilgrims and Native Americans sitting together to share a delightful feast on what was allegedly the first Thanksgiving Day, completely unaware that Thanksgiving’s true roots marked historical milestone of the slaughter of Native Americans.

For some Black people, the transformation of the historic day into a traditional celebration of thanks is yet another way America is hoping to sweep its ugly history under the rug.

“At this point – at this time where information is so readily available to everyone and anyone, why is it so important that we keep perpetuating this lie,” said Vernelle Taylor, a 58-year-old African American woman from Jonesboro who described herself as a stay-at-home grandmother. “I think it’s important for everyone to know where this day really originated from, but you really want to see African Americans acknowledge this because this should hit close to home for us… It should remind us of our ancestors too.”

The history of Thanksgiving can be traced back to a tale that sounds all too familiar to many people of color – white conquerors invading a land, claiming it as their own and taking the lives of the land’s indigenous people for their own gain.

Taylor said that she does not celebrate Thanksgiving although one of her three daughters has a large family gathering for the holiday every year.

“I never go,” Taylor said. “I’ll go the day after or the day before. I love to see my family but I’m not sitting at a table to forget what [colonists] have done to these people – what they have done to us.”

As it turns out, many Black families feel the same way.

Atlanta Blackstar conducted a random survey of 130 Black people and discovered that more than 60 did not celebrate Thanksgiving because they felt it would be a celebration of what some referred to as the “genocide” of Native Americans.

“It’s genocide,” said Marlon Tillman, a 26-year-old vocal coach from Savannah, Georgia. “Let’s call it what it is. When you put it that way nobody wants to sit around a table anymore ‘cause they know that’s wrong. They know that’s not right.”

For some families, however, the holiday was about “redefining” its dark past and turning it into something more positive.

Out of the 62 participants who said they did not celebrate Thanksgiving, more than 40 admitted to still having family dinners together on the holiday.

“I say I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving because I don’t,” said Kevin Gray, a recent graduate from Georgia State University. “I do get together with family because it’s a nice thing to do but you won’t hear any of us say ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’ We just enjoy each other and, you know, we’ll watch football or something and we’ll eat good but it’s not because of that day…and what that day means.”

Gray went on to explain that his family has formed its own traditions around that day but they would never refer to it as Thanksgiving because that “name has been taken.”

“We know we’re going to meet up on that Thursday but it’s not like we’re going to say we’re meeting up on Thanksgiving,” he added. “That name is taken. Thanksgiving already stands for something and it’s something I don’t really want to celebrate.”

Other families had the same idea although they had no problem referring to the holiday as Thanksgiving as long as they knew they were not commemorating the slaughter of Native Americans.

“I almost don’t know how to answer because when you sit down and think, ‘Do I celebrate Thanksgiving?’ The answer is obviously no,” said RaVan-Simon Jarrett, an independent contractor from Snellville, Georgia. “But I do celebrate a day of thanks and giving. [I] celebrate what I think Thanksgiving should be. I think people are just looking at the good that can come of that day instead of thinking about the bad. It’s like people are redefining Thanksgiving.”

For people like Tillman, however, the concept of redefining that day just doesn’t feel right.

He compared the redefinition of the holiday to the way people claim to be repurposing the N-word.

“You know how people say ni**a but they say it doesn’t mean what it used to mean,” Tillman said. “That’s how I see this. Thanksgiving – or at least the idea of it – comes from an awful period of history and so does that word. You can’t just decide it means something else, you can’t repurpose history.”

While the way the holiday is celebrated varies greatly between each individual, more than 90 participants admitted that the holiday’s history crosses their mind at least once at some point in the day.

“Even if it is just for a second you do think about it and I would like to think everyone does just for a second,” said Aliscia Ray, a fourth-year journalism student at Georgia State University. “It might be quick but I think you do kind of say, ‘Hey, this is what really happened.’ What you do after that is kind of up to you.”

What people are saying

39 thoughts on “Bloody Origins of Thanksgiving Continue to Push Some Black Families Away from the Table

  1. Kenneth Rhea says:

    There was no "genocide" against the native American tribes. Genocide has a specific meaning. Lack of immunity from the diseases of the Europeans was the major reason for the decline of the indigenous peoples. Someone wrote "that even if Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama, and Bono had captained the three ships, the results would have turned out much the same." Sadly this does not fuel the anger that you want to wallow in. Suck it up buttercup, we are all slaves to one thing or another, but most of it st a us between our ears.

  2. STFU! You guys have select amnesia! It was more like Happy Thanks Taking. We Charge you with genocide! I guess slavery didn't exist!

  3. Tinisha Shána Harris says:

    There was no genocide? Really? There was actually two. One that is well documented by a witness to the scalping, murder for fun and rape of Native Americans then there was the bloodless genicide; genocide on paper. This began with Walter Plecker in Virginias vital records office. The Native Americans nationality was lumped into one group of other minority's as "colored". Their names and cultures were deleted with a stroke of a pen. Kenneth, you are delusional. Don't deny history because you are ignorant of it. Your Turkey Day is based on blood, theft and murder. Facts.

  4. The natives often enslaved warring tribe members who they attacked without end until some white Europeans mediated between them and put an end to generations of tribal warfare. That's just one side of this complicated tale. No one is without sin. People who spout this "evil America" narrative over and over again (as if they are clean) have selective hatred. Get over it already and eat up.

  5. You white people always want to distort history. Rape, kill, maim, and destroy. That's your nature. Fake ass Christian nation!

  6. "The history of Thanksgiving can be traced back to a tale that sounds all too familiar to many people of color – white conquerors invading a land, claiming it as their own and taking the lives of the land’s indigenous people for their own gain." –

    Seriously? If the author wants to reference history, why not research some. Not all conquerors were white and not all conquered "of color". Ever heard of Ghengis Khan? Shaka Zulu? Although, I guess, they were known for their gentleness and benevolence to the people's they conquered… Anyway, it's not just white Europeans who are "guilty". They are just the most recent. Until we see how this ISIS thing plays out.
    Maybe people who point to the atrocities in our history should expand their learning. Facts are not selective. The way you use them can be, though.

  7. The Three bodies of government was stolen from the Native Tribal counsel. You destroyed the Natives by giving them small pox in blankets, you killed off the Incas, the Mayans, the Aztecs, the original Egyptian when Alexander the Bitch raided The Egyptian Temples. That's why China built the Great Wall of China…to keep you Colonizers from coming in and destroying they culture and women. You haven't changed in 6,000 years. Masquerading as liberators….bitch please!

  8. Jay Contreras says:

    You right about that…the devil posing as christian, is more like it. Here comes this 'we all are sinners'…things sociopaths say. And this is Atlanta BLACKstar, isn't it? Why are they crawling around all the time? This is not CNN or MSNBC.

  9. Arcy Sone says:

    Jay Contreras they are paid agent and they are sent to troll us. but on http://www.bragse.com they will be sensor. Peace brother keep fighting until we win

  10. Kenneth Rhea says:

    Well, that is the sad thing about history. Some dumb asses can't just make up something and call it history. Well, they can because they are dumb asses. But it still does not make it so.

    BTW, IS YOU a Muslim? Muslim Arabs were the ones who mostly collected the slaves that other tribes had already rounded up for them. Further, Muslims continued slavery up into the 20th century, long after Christians in first England, and then the US ended slavery,. Besides, the thread was about Thanksgiving, not slavery. I never said slavery did not exist.

    As well, and I know this will be a deal breaker for you, but get a dictionary and read what genocide is. Or can you read?

  11. Kenneth Rhea says:

    Seriously, paper genocide? That is just too stupid to contemplate. You have you a nice hate filled day now, you hear.

  12. Kenneth Rhea says:

    One last rant on my part. I was just going through the history of Thanksgiving and the search engine found your paper's hate filled screed about the holiday. First I was just amazed, and then I thought, why not try a little education.

    I forgot, you can't fix stupid. Anyhow, you all just keep your bitter racist ideas and think whatever you are capable of thinking. Have a nice day.

  13. Kenneth Rhea says:

    Are there not flights to Africa available? I am sure there are plenty of blacks in Africa and elsewhere in the world that would dearly love to come to this "horrible evil" country to take your place. Why not swop your lives? Then you could have all the segregation you desire.

  14. Kenneth Rhea says:

    I was researching the origins of the day when I chanced upon the Blackstar racist hate site. The respondents here are confounded that people who actually know history and do not have a racist agenda stumbled across THEIR hate filled racist rant. I hope they do ultimately find a way to segregate themselves off in some spot where they can wrap theirs mind around whatever delusions it takes to get them through their day.

  15. Arcy Sone I love the sign off with "peace." LOL, that's precious.

  16. Arcy Sone says:

    Shelter Somerset I'm trying. Life is so simple yet so hard….PEACE

  17. Tinisha Shána Harris says:

    Wow Kenneth Rhea. I guess slavery didn't happen either? Stop looking up conspiracies online and open a book. Millions of Native Americans are unaccounted for. Their culture, history and home was taken away from them. That is a fact even though your privilege won't allow you to see it. This may be a black forum but no one hates you here. No one wants to segregate themselves but don't come on here and attempt to belittle us because YOU are not enlightened. God bless you. Now continue to celebrate your holiday of greed.

  18. Nick Sewell says:

    Kenneth Rhea like a true RED NECK

  19. there's an african proverb-" the speaker of truth has no friends."

  20. Aaron King says:

    Why would anyone want to stay in such an evil country, and be forced to raise their children here. WHY DON'T YOU JUST TAKE YOUR ASSES TO SOME OTHER COUNTRY, AND STOP COMPLAINING.

  21. Emanuel Fleming says:

    they gave them blankets they knew had small pox in order to kill them,, thats genocide man…

  22. Emanuel Fleming says:

    Kenneth Rhea you're extremely stupid man

  23. We are everywhere. We just have to keep reminding you. That we've been here before you got here. 🙂

  24. Aaron King says:

    Cecil Max-George ….you see, here's the thing dude. I hate to see people unhappy. I hate to see people suffer. So instead of staying in this hell hole called America, why don't the haters just make tracks for say, Cuba, or Haiti, or anywhere but here. At least you would be happy.

    You know normally, women are the ones complaining, as men usually just solve the problem instead of bellyaching over it. I surmise you are somewhat effeminate.

    Additionally, unless you are over 51yrs old, you didn't get here before me………enjoy your day sir…..but since you hate the country you live in, that is going to be a tough act to follow.

  25. Aaron King says:

    Kenneth Rhea …..you did your best

  26. Aaron King says:

    Nick Sewell …..sticks and stones

  27. Kenneth Rhea Arcy Sone the irony behind the black marxist separatist movement is that the idea originated from white European fascists who believed blacks should be given their own state.

  28. Arcy Sone says:

    Shelter Somerset Revolution of the mind not a physical separation.

  29. Aaron King "…sticks and stones" are what you hillbillies must be sticking up your asses to be coming on this site with words like "racist hate site". Just because you can't accept the history and current reality of the crimes of you and your people doesn't make it not true.

  30. God you're stupid. You still repeat the colonizer's false propaganda version of history. Considering America continues the politics of genocide and imperialism across the globe, it's no wonder you continue to propagate these myths.

  31. Caleb Granger God you're stupid. You still repeat the communist false propaganda version of history. Considering communists continue the politics of genocide and imperialism across the globe, it's no wonder you continue to propagate these myths.

  32. Listen Kenneth if u attempt to justify maltreatment one more time im gonna gps you. Cuz you cant be that naive in any state in America. I can teach you about brutality and genocide….but it won't be cuz the color of ur skin or the land you have

  33. Your comment sounds like a threat … you may want to get some help with your sentence structure. Kenneth, could have called the police for your comment. That said, I cant say if Kenneth was right or wrong with his comments since he doesnt seem to be here anymore. Given the comments made by those who are still here … well lets just say, at this point I am siding with Kenneth as all of your comments are without fact, logic or common sense.

  34. all these holidays are all about capitol gain for these corporations that may fund all the foods n gifts that us as so called african americans celebrate time and time again.

  35. John Hay says:

    Then move away from us and save yourself!

  36. John Hay says:

    Yeah, too bad we're on the internet and not still wearing loincloths and living in teepees, huh? EVERY piece of land on this earth has been warred over and fought over and passed hands. To only lay blame at the feet of white people, who at least had the decency to invent our modern world (airplanes, tv, penicillin, internet,etc.) is ridiculous.

  37. John Hay says:

    Caleb Granger Such self-loathing is a mental illness.. Show me any "sin" of the US and I'll show you it all around the world. But I can show you many, many positive things about the US that hardly exist anywhere else.

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