If you’re an American history buff like me, you might get a kick out of imagining what role you might have played in the American Revolution.
Rabble rouser? Minuteman? General? Signer of the Declaration of Independence? Diplomat?
For any of these roles, it’s easy to pick a Founding Father as your avatar. For instance, Paul Revere, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin.
But what if you want to go beyond the usual famous white men and find a role model closer to your own background and interests?
Fortunately, in recent decades historians have started paying closer attention to the women and people of color who also played a role in our nation’s birth.
Of course there are the semi-mythical Betsy Ross (she was a real person, but did she really design the first American flag?) or Molly PItcher (probably a composite figure for many women who carried water to artillerymen on the battlefield and possibly also fought themselves).
We also know about female historical figures who served as writers and printers such as Boston’s playwright and essayist Mercy Otis Warren and Clementina Rind of Williamsburg, who took over publishing the pro-patriot Virginia Gazette on the death of her husband.
Finally, some history fans today may relate to James Lafayette, who served as a spy for Washington at Yorktown. Or what about Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American to become a published poet who praised George Washington in verse and in turn, was praised by him — and all while she was living as an enslaved person in Boston, no less.
July might be the best month of the year to think about the meaning of the American Revolution not just back then, but today too.
For me, it’s about drawing on our shared past for inspiration to act in the future, especially on the issues of climate and clean energy.
You don’t have to be a verified member of the Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution to claim the founders of our country as your forbears. Just take my own case as an example. I don’t think I’d qualify for any revolutionary heritage group, since I’m pretty sure that all my ancestors came to the U.S. after the Civil War from non-WASPy places like Ireland, Norway and Lithuania.
Yet, I don’t let that bother me.
I think I have as much right as any other American to claim George Washington, Abigail Adams or Phillis Wheatley as my inspiration. They fought for freedom and equality in the late 18th century. I fight for climate solutions and solar power today.
I believe that it’s the same fight. The same revolution, for the last 242 years. And the same high stakes.
We must win. Or, as they would’ve said back in the dark days of the Revolutionary War, “Victory or Death!”
— Erik Curren, The Solar Patriot