The meaning of Thanksgiving Day

  • Title:

    What So Proudly We Hail
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Article Highlights

  • Thanksgiving is a much beloved American holiday. But what do we celebrate on Thanksgiving?

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  • A new collection of stories, speeches, and songs examines the meaning of Thanksgiving Day.

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Thanksgiving is a venerable and much beloved American holiday. But what do we celebrate on Thanksgiving? This collection of stories, speeches, and songs examines the meaning of Thanksgiving Day, with selections by American authors such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Jack London, Langston Hughes, Sarah Orne Jewett and O. Henry, to name just a few. For more stories, speeches, and songs, or to learn more about the What So Proudly We Hail project, head to

Thanksgiving Day: An American Holiday 

The Origins and Traditions of Thanksgiving Day
William Bradford, Excerpts from Of Plymouth Plantation
George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation
Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Excerpt from Northwood
Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, “Our National Thanksgiving”
Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Letter to President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving Proclamation
Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, Modern Thanksgiving Proclamations
James W. Ceaser, Excerpt from “No Thanks to Gratitude”
Thanksgiving Day Proclamations, 1789–present

Public and Private Blessings: The Things for Which We Should Be Grateful
John Greenleaf Whittier, "For an Autumn Festival"
John Greenleaf Whittier, "The Corn Song"

Hearth and Home
Louisa May Alcott, "An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving"
Lydia Maria Child, "Thanksgiving Day"
Edgar Albert Guest, "Thanksgiving"

Harriet Beecher Stowe, "How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown"
Jack London, "Thanksgiving on Slav Creek"
Sarah Orne Jewett, "The Lost Turkey"
Langston Hughes, "Those Who Have No Turkey"

Neighborliness and Hospitality
Sarah Orne Jewett, "The Night Before Thanksgiving"
O. Henry, "Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen"

Liberty and Equal Opportunity
Daniel Webster, Excerpt from "The First Settlement of New England"
Dorothy Canfield Fisher, "A New Pioneer"
Edward Everett Hale, "Thanksgiving at the Polls"

Discussion Guides
Discussion Guide for George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation
Discussion Guide for "Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen"

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About the Author


Leon R.

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