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Myths America Lives ByWhite Supremacy and the Stories That Give Us Meaning$
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Richard T. Hughes

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042065

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042065.001.0001

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The Myth of the Chosen Nation

The Myth of the Chosen Nation

The Colonial Period

(p.32) Chapter Two The Myth of the Chosen Nation
Myths America Lives By

Richard T. Hughes

University of Illinois Press

The American myth of the Chosen Nation has its deepest roots in the Hebrew Bible, on the one hand, and the English Reformation, on the other. William Tyndale, through his 1534 translation of the New Testament, popularized the notion that England was a chosen nation. Convinced that England had broken its covenant with God, the New England Puritans applied that myth to themselves. In their hands, the chosen people myth became a tool that justified oppression of both native people and enslaved Africans. By the revolutionary period, this myth had become a staple of the American imagination, accepted and used even by America’s founders. The myth of the Chosen Nation assumed both the objective reality of “white people” and the superiority of “white people” over people of color. In the Negro spirituals, enslaved blacks turned the American myth of chosenness upside down, claiming that they were God’s chosen people, suffering in an American Egypt, and waiting for God to deliver them out of American bondage into a promised land, a story to which Martin Luther King Jr. appealed on the eve of his assassination in 1968. Other blacks developed countermyths such as “Yacub’s History,” related by Malcolm X.

Keywords:   colonial period, Hebrew Bible, English Reformation, William Tyndale, Puritans, Negro spirituals, "white people" myth, white supremacy, Yacub’s History, Malcolm X

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