Weird History
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12 Lies About American History Even History Buffs Are Guilty Of Believing

February 4, 2021 15.2k votes 2.6k voters 88.5k views12 items

List RulesVote up the American myths you really thought were true.

A fair bit of American history is wholly inaccurate, yet these myths persist in US history classes, popular anecdotes, and even textbooks. This is how several American history lies have become facts to many people.

Many popular American misconceptions are easy to disprove, but difficult to accept. What follows is the factually correct American history all Americans deserve to know. Vote up the truths that genuinely surprise you.

  • 5

    Paul Revere Warned Americans The British Were Coming - By Himself

    The Myth: Paul Revere participated in a midnight ride to warn the town of Concord, MA, that the British regulars were coming. He rode through the night by himself without aid or assistance. 

    Its Origin: The story that Paul Revere warned the people of Massachusetts originated with a famous poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In his poem, Longfellow detailed how Revere rode through the night to warn the people of Massachusetts that the British were coming. 

    Why It’s Wrong: For starters, Longfellow’s poem was written long after the American Revolution ended, with the poem only being presented in 1860. In truth, the poem had nothing to do with the event that transpired and was instead meant to incite patriotism in the hearts of those in the American Union.

    Additionally, Revere’s midnight ride did not end in him shouting the popularly known phrase, “The British are coming!” nor did Revere make the journey to warn the town himself. According to numerous historians, Revere never made it to Concord, as he was detained with his traveling companions before they could make their way there.

    Evidently, Revere failed to escape until much later, while his companion Samuel Prescott managed to get free and warn the town. Dozens of others also rode out to warn the colonists, though their names are unknown.

    Mind blown?
  • 6

    Slavery Only Existed In The South

    The Myth: In America, slavery only ever occurred in the South and nowhere else in the country. 

    Its Origin: The American South had the largest population of slaves in comparison to the entire country, and many of the slave revolts occurred in the South - such as the South Carolina slave rebellion of September 1739. Many were slain during this event, which led to a 10-year moratorium being placed on the movement and importation of slaves. 

    Why It’s Wrong: In fact, slavery existed in every colony in America, with the state of Massachusetts being the first known colony to legalize slavery. Numerous American colonies in the North actively participated in the existence of slavery, particularly in the shoemaking, textile, and shipbuilding industries.

    Slavery gradually ended in the Northern states, but not all emancipation laws were immediate or universal decrees. New York state passed a Gradual Emancipation in 1799 that kept many young slaves in servitude until they reached adulthood. A census from 1830 reported 75 slaves still living in New York. It would be another decade before the last slave was officially free.

    Mind blown?
  • 7

    The Founding Fathers Believed In Full Democracy

    The Myth: America’s Founding Fathers wanted a democratic government after overcoming colonial rule, and firmly believed in democratic ideals. 

    Its Origin: This has been a popular, foundational belief of the United States of America for centuries.

    Why It’s Wrong: The Founding Fathers believed in representative government, but many argued against a direct democracy. Numerous quotes demonstrate the true feelings of the Founding Fathers on democracy. For example, Benjamin Rush said, “A simple democracy is the devil’s own government,” and Fisher Ames is quoted as saying, “A democracy is a volcano which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction.” 

    When designing the Constitution, the Founding Fathers sought to limit direct democracy. For instance, the direct election of US senators would not become the norm until the 17th amendment was passed in the early 20th century. As columnist Eric Black explains, even the idea that the US president represents the "people" is a relatively new notion:

    In fact, it’s worth noting that the Framers had no thought that the president would have a “mandate” from “the people.” They were looking for excellence, not popularity. Ackerman’s “Failure” book... argues that not until the fourth presidential election... did the idea develop that a president derived some of his authority from a popular mandate.

    Mind blown?
  • Photo: Jean Leon Gerome Ferris / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Betsy Ross Designed The American Flag

    The Myth: Renowned American seamstress Betsy Ross designed and crafted the American flag without any input or assistance from others.

    Its Origin: Historically, the tale that Betsy Ross designed and sewed the American flag is presumed to have been told by Betsy herself to her relatives and descendants. Over the years, many of Ross’s relatives have proclaimed to know the truth surrounding the American flag’s design history.

    According to her relatives, they heard from Ross and other important figures many details pertaining to how the flag was created, such as how it was designed and sewn and how Ross was the sole person involved in its physical creation.

    Why It’s Wrong: There is much debate surrounding the claims made by Betsy Ross’s descendants about the design and subsequent creation of the first American flag. Some historians have chosen to believe the family, as they are the only ones to have come forward with any evidence - even if it isn’t substantial.

    Other historians question the family’s claims with the proof that Ross wasn’t credited during her lifetime with designing or sewing the flag. Some have even argued that Francis Hopkinson had instrumental input to the flag’s design, as he was known for designing many seals and various symbols. Furthermore, in recent years, reports have come to light that the flag design was indeed a collaborative effort. 

    Mind blown?