Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

James Green

Second Advisor

Malcolm Smuts

Third Advisor

Timothy Hacsi


The first permanent English settlers in America arrived in the seventeenth century at Jamestown, Virginia and Plymouth, Massachusetts. This comparative study in Public History focuses on the evolution of American founding story narratives at Historic Jamestowne (jointly run by the National Park Service and Preservation Virginia) and at Plimoth Plantation (a private, non-profit museum). Both sites in the mid 1950s focused primarily on how the colonists survived hardships and spread the glories of English culture in the New World, leaving out Indian and African perspectives. Increasing knowledge in the scholarly community, pressure from groups under-represented in the American narrative, and new American sensibilities about multi-culturalism contributed to major changes in interpretation at Plymouth and Jamestown. By 2010, America's founding stories had become inclusive tales of cross-cultural exchange between the English and Native Americans, and also Africans at Jamestown. This study highlights the similarities and differences in each site's transition to including broader cultural perspectives and more complexity in the founding stories of America.


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