Cover for HUGHES: Myths America Lives By. Click for larger image

Myths America Lives By

Exploring the history of the myths that define American identity, the ways many Americans have absolutized those myths, and the ways African Americans and other dissenters have exposed those myths for their discriminatory dimensions

In this book Richard T. Hughes identifies the five key myths that lie at the heart of the American experience--the myths of the Chosen Nation, of Nature's Nation, of the Christian Nation, of the Millennial Nation, and of the Innocent Nation.

Drawing on a range of dissenting voices, Hughes shows that by canonizing these seemingly harmless myths of national identity as absolute truths, America risks undermining the sweepingly egalitarian promise of the Declaration of Independence.

The Chosen Nation myth led to the wholesale slaughter of indigenous peoples during the pioneer era. More recently the Innocent Nation myth prevented many Americans from understanding, or even discussing, the complex motivations of the 9/11 terrorists. Myths America Lives By demonstrates that Americans must rethink these myths in the spirit of extraordinary humility if the United States is to fulfil its true promise as a nation.

Hughes locates the roots of each myth in a different period of America's development, and from each of these periods he finds stirring critiques offered by marginalized commentators--especially African Americans and Native Americans–-who question the predominant myth of their age.

Myths America Lives By is a dialog between the mainstream mythmakers and the many critics--including Martin Luther King Jr., Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, Black Elk, Anna J. Cooper, and Booker T. Washington, Malcom X, Angela Davis, and W. E. B. DuBois--whose dissent, rather than being un-American, was often grounded in a patriotic belief in the "self-evident" equality of America's fundamental creed.

"This book is a wake-up call."--Christianity Today

"Myths America Lives By is ferociously rational in its moral character. Hughes has written an elegant and compelling book."--Molefi Kete Asante

"A solid contribution to the self-reassessment the US is now going through."--Choice

Richard T. Hughes is Director of the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies and Distinguished Professor of Religion at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, and author or editor of more than a dozen books, Illusions of Innocence: Protestant Primitivism in America, 1630-1875. Robert N. Bellah is Elliott Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of numerous books including The Broken Covenant: American Civil Religion in Time of Trial.

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