The American Dream: A Utopian Historical Myth

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Born from a fiery rebellion against tyranny, the American Revolution created a national identity built on division. The Revolution divided America from Britain, while separating white Americans from African-Americans. Of course, America fought for its freedom as a nation: whites, African-Americans, and others united against British authority. When the Revolution succeeded and the United States came into being, a new national identity arose founded upon liberal ideals that promised equality and opportunity to all citizens: the American Dream. However, the new nation excluded one fifth of its population from its new ideals. This reality deeply diverged from the American Dream’s glittered ideals. Nevertheless, whites constructed from the Revolution a utopian historical myth central to the American Dream’s …show more content…

In 1791, Benjamin Banneker, a free African-American, wrote Thomas Jefferson to highlight the unfairness of America’s new national identity. Banneker observed, “your tender feelings for yourselves had engaged you thus to declare [that all men are created equal], you were then impressed with proper ideas of the great violation of liberty, and the free possession of those blessings, to which you were entitled by nature.” Indeed, African-Americans were not “entitled by nature” to those fundamental American liberties. Instead, they were “bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it.” The inescapable gap between the ideal and reality of American independence revealed the “the gap between people, only on the basis of their skins.” This “gap” served as the gatekeeper to the American Dream. African-Americans did not “own” the Revolution’s utopian ideals. They were instead faced with the brutal reality of racial oppression, which permanently inhibited their access to American

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