Video: 1776

The American Character in History and Teaching

National Association of Scholars

There are many dates that vie for the year that America was truly founded: 1619, as the New York Times argues; 1620, as we discussed in our last webinar; 1789, the year of the Constitution’s adoption; and 1863, at the rebirth of a nation through a bloody civil war and the heavy words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. But for most Americans, no date can contend with the actual date of America’s birth in the words penned by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

In 1776, a collection of unruly colonies stood up to their king, declared independence, and formed a new nation. Each year, we Americans celebrate this event on July 4th, our Independence Day.

But is 1776 truly America’s founding year? Europeans colonized the New World for nearly 200 years before the Founders signed the Declaration of Independence. Does marking the nation’s founding in 1776 leave out part of the story of America

Notably, the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution failed to provide equal rights for most inhabitants of America for nearly 200 years after King George sent a fleet to quash the foundling uprising. Does celebrating the year 1776 exclude those who were unable to receive equal rights?


This webinar features Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer at The Atlantic; Bob Woodson, founder and president of the Woodson Center and 1776 Unites; and Jason Ross, associate professor and associate dean of Liberty University's Helms School of Government. The discussion was moderated by Bruce Gilley, Professor of Political Science at Portland State University and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Scholars.

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