New York has a great story to tell about its role in the American Revolution. In fact it has many great stories to tell, and many people are telling and struggling to tell those stories.
Given the plethora of sites in the state relating to the American Revolution and to the significance of the events which transpired here, one would think that the State basks in the greatness of being the home to so much that was so critical to the founding of our country. Think again.
At the kickoff session for the Path through History program in 2012, keynote speaker Ken Jackson castigated New Yorkers for their shortcomings in telling their story compared to the efforts of those in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
At the New York History Roundtable called by Assemblyman Steve Englelbright in 2014, the Assemblyman castigated New Yorkers for their failure to advertise on the television program Turn, a spy story set in Setauket (in his own district), while Virginia, where the show is filmed, markets itself on the show, which is based on events in New York.
When the American Revolution in New York does make the news, it’s more likely to be for the wrong reasons. There is the valiant and ongoing effort by the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot to save the cemetery where American troops were buried. There is the Marylander Proposal to honor the 256 soldiers buried in Gowanus after the Battle of Brooklyn, There is the effort of The Friends of Miller’s House/Washington’s Headquarters to rescue the dilapidated and deteriorating Westchester County owned building that has been shuttered since 2004. People in small communities and large are struggling to preserve the legacy of the American Revolution and with little state support.
What Should Be Done
1. Hold American Revolution conferences in the City of New York and the Hudson Valley – while the comparatively isolated Fort Plain and Fort Ticonderoga hosts conferences in the Mohawk and Champlain Valleys thanks to two private historical societies, the Hudson Valley and the City of New York do not. (There is an American Revolution Roundtable in Manhattan which meets periodically during the school year.) The conference in the city should be timed to coincide with the July 4 fireworks to promote national attendance.
2. Create week-long tourist itineraries on the theme of the American Revolution in the Champlain, Hudson, and Mohawk Valleys and in the City of New York.
3. Create professional development programs for teachers based on the American Revolution (even without federal funding).
4. Market the story of New York’s role in the American Revolution. If the Hamptons can promote itself on the television show Royal Pains (filmed and set in New York), why can’t the State promote the American Revolution on shows set in New York?
5. Ensure the education curriculum includes local references to New York’s role in the American Revolution.
Photo: A promotion for Virginia at the end of the TV show Turn.