Academic journal article Journalism History

Popular Media and the American Revolution: Shaping Collective Memory

Academic journal article Journalism History

Popular Media and the American Revolution: Shaping Collective Memory

Article excerpt

Hume, Janice. Popular Media and the American Revolution: Shaping Collective Memory. New York: Routledge, 2014.142 pp. $34.95.

With these studies of the media's role in creating myths and memories of the American Revolution, Janice Hume adds to her impressive work in documenting how the mass media contribute to collective memory.

The previous work of Hume, a journalism professor at the University of Georgia, has dealt with the portrayals of grief in the media and the press's role in shaping memories of the American Civil War. The essays compiled in this slim volume tackle America's War for Independence-an event Hume calls the country's first "real story"- by looking primarily at how the print media contributed to the archetypes and myths of the nation's beginnings.

In the first chapter, previously published as an article in Journalism History, she examines how late eighteenthand early nineteenth-century historians drew upon newspaper accounts in their studies of the American Revolution. She analyzed more than sixty published histories and found the authors relied upon various news stories, including obituaries, biographies, and personal accounts as they set down their views of events.

In Chapter 2, Hume considers how magazines published before the Civil War recalled the Revolution and contributed to shaping the memory of that event as the young nation grew and faced divisions over slavery. In her analysis of more than two hundred magazine articles published from 1787 to 1860, she concludes that as eyewitnesses to the war died, periodicals created mythological stories of brave American patriots and ruthless foes.

In the next chapter, the author turns to a case study of a small Georgia town that was the first in the nation to be named after George Washington. She draws upon local, regional, and national accounts that describe the community's history and its ties to the Revolution. She finds that the press, along with local historical organizations, helped keep the town's pride and patriotism alive.

Hume broadens the scope of her work in the following chapter to consider how the media reported on July 4 celebrations over the years. She analyzed more than 250 news accounts that attest to the cultural power of the celebration and its role in teaching history. News coverage of July 4 celebrations served as an opportunity to retell the nation's history, reaffirm the ideals that governed America's quest of independence, and remind readers of local contributions to the nation's freedom. …

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