One of the most fascinating things I’ve ever studied in any history class throughout my time in a classroom has been the Jamestown colony. My interest is most likely attributable to the time I spent in the Virginia school system, and the depth of material covered there. I believe that the Jamestown colony and colonization of North America were both extremely daring, but also a great tragedy. It is almost unfathomable to me that North America was an entirely different place only a few hundred years ago. 1493: Uncovering the New World was so beautifully written that I could imagine the vastly different landscape without worms, or sheep, or cattle. Despite my more thorough than is typical background on the Jamestown colony, I learned a lot by reading it, and the importance of the colony was reinforced in my mind.
One of the most interesting things that I learned was about John Smith. Like many children, I grew up watching Disney movies, and my image of John Smith was shaped around his image in the film Pocahontas. It was a shock, though amusing, to learn that there is a fair chance that John Smith may have exaggerated his exploits, which were both daring and numerous, all before the age of 26, according to the article. I was pleased to see that the Disney movie and historical texts both agree that John Smith was able to bridge the gap between colonists and the Native Americans.
I was also very interested to read about the tensions between the colonists and the Indians. I don’t remember learning about the specific details growing up, like the massacre the article describes toward the end. Indians who frequently spent time with colonists came over, ate a meal with them, and grabbed whatever they could find to murder the colonists. This is a darker side of history that I wish we did read about in text books growing up, because I feel it’s important to share the truth, and not the simplified or watered down version that is so often shared. Why is it that history texts are so often censored? Is the public afraid that children will repeat the same acts of violence once they’ve read about the horrendous acts committed in the world’s youth? I believe that neither history nor literature should be censored. While there are things that certainly should not make the reading lists of third-graders, the truth is not something that should be sheltered either.