Back Story - American as Pumpkin Pie: A History of Thanksgiving

When we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, we think we know what we're commemorating. After all, the story of Pilgrims and Indians breaking bread together is one of the first history lessons many of us had. But if an actual Pilgrim were to attend your Thanksgiving dinner, chances are he'd be stunned, and not a little disgusted, by what transpired there. On this holiday edition of BackStory, the History Guys search for the true roots of Thanksgiving. They discover that the holiday we celebrate today begins not with the Pilgrims, but with the Victorians, who in the midst of the Civil War sought a national holiday honoring home and family. But did Thanksgiving strengthen the Union, as its proponents had hoped? What relation do Indians have to the holiday in reality - and in myth? And what does football have to do with any of it?

Highlights include:

* Historian James McWilliams explains why the Puritans would have turned up their noses at the Thanksgiving foods we consider most traditional.
* Legendary NFL quarterback Roger Staubach describes what it was like to spend every Thanksgiving on the football field.
* Religion scholar Anne Blue Wills discusses the life of Sarah Hale, the 19th century magazine editor who waged a 30-year campaign to make Thanksgiving a holiday.
* BackStory listeners - including experts on the pardoning and the roasting of turkey - weigh in with their thoughts on the holiday.

Guests: 

Historian James McWilliams
NFL quarterback Roger Staubach
Religion scholar Anne Blue Wills

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