Due to a failed education system that pushes ideology and indoctrination, many Americans are unaware of our rich and unique history — a history that exemplifies why America is an exceptional nation. When we don’t know our history, false narratives begin to emerge like the 1619 Project, pedaling the lie that our founders were nothing more than rich white men from England who wanted to preserve the institution of slavery.
America’s real history begins with the Boston Massacre and the decision to craft the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration would convey our desire to be free from England and define the core American political philosophies, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Thomas Jefferson is synonymous with the Declaration. To a lesser degree, some may think of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. Contrary to what has been taught, there are many unknown names from a diverse set of backgrounds that shaped our founding.
Unfortunately, most Americans have never heard of Filippo Mazzei who played a critical role in America’s founding. Mazzei, an Italian merchant, befriended Jefferson. In 1773, Mazzei traveled to America and quickly took up the cause of independence.
Mazzei and Jefferson would regularly discuss politics, sharing their ideas on how true liberty could go from the theoretical and instituted into practice. In 1774, Mazzei published an article in the Virginia Gazette and wrote, “Tutti gli uomini sono per natura egualmente liberi e indipendenti. Quest’ eguaglianza e neccessaria per costituire un governo libero.” Jefferson translated Mazzei’s work: “All men are by nature equally free and independent. This equality is necessary in order to create a free government.” The idea would become a central part of the American creed and illustrates Mazzei’s influence on the Declaration.
What makes this so remarkable is that Italians weren’t considered white until the turn of the 20th century, and it would take nearly 200 years for Congress to recognize Mazzei’s contribution. However, Mazzei’s contributions go beyond the Declaration, and his story is one of the many contributions that are never taught, intentionally perpetuating the false narratives of an evil and racist nation. Few could recognize the names Capt. Richard Taliaferro, Capt. Ferdinando Finizzi and Capt. Francesco Vigo, all playing integral roles throughout the American Revolution.
Hispanics also contributed to the cause of independence. For example, Gen. Bernardo Galvez’s victories on the battlefield were essential to eliminating British naval presence in the Gulf of Mexico. The contributions of other Hispanics like Gov. Luis de Unzaga and Lt. Jordi Mesquida also remain relatively unknown.
Few Americans are aware that in the lead-up to America’s independence, a Black man, Crispus Attucks was the first casualty when he was shot and killed in the Boston Massacre. How many of us know that 5,000 Black American patriots took up the cause of independence against the British, particularly the integrated 1st Rhode Island Regiment, which earned a reputation for bravery and ferocity? What about other Black patriots, like James Armistead, who served as a spy and double agent, or Peter Salem, best known for killing Major John Pitcairn at the Battle of Bunker Hill, or Phillis Wheatley whose literary talent influenced George Washington and Benjamin Franklin? What about Lancaster Hill, Prince Hall and others, demanding America live up to the principles laid out in the Declaration and abolish the institution of slavery?
Reducing our founding to a bunch of old rich white men is a lie and does a disservice to the countless others that have contributed to this great nation. It’s odd that those who complain the loudest of whitewashing history are the same people who have controlled academia and curriculums for nearly a century. This Independence Day all Americans should make a commitment to reacquaint themselves with our country’s vibrant history.
• Nicholas Giordano is a full-time tenured professor of political science and the host of “The P.A.S. Report Podcast.”