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Prof. David Gellman Explores 'Unsolved Colonial Mysteries: Witches, Pirates & Pocahontas'

January 13, 2010

13  DSC0336 42crfJanuary 13, 2010, Greencastle, Ind. — "These stories tell us something about what it was like to be alive during these times," David N. Gellman, associate professor of history at DePauw University, told an audience at the Putnam County Library. As the Banner-Graphic reports, Dr. Gellman presented a lecture yesterday on "Unsolved Colonial Mysteries: Witches, Pirates & Pocahontas." According to the professor, "There is a difference in relationships between what we remember about these subjects versus what really happened."

Professor Gellman stated, "It's sort of the road not taken. If an Indian woman and Capt. John Smith could have fallen in love, it lets us believe in the better part of the story of who we are."

Maribeth Smith writes, "There are a couple of problems in believing the story of Pocahontas saving Smith's life by throwing herself in front of him (as in the Walt Disney movie) acknowledged Gellman. 'Pocahontas was one of many children of her father the chief, clubbing someone to death was a sentence reserved for very serious crimes, and Pocahontas would have been about 10 years old at this time. Smith was closer to about 28,' explained Gellman. It is more likely, according to Gellman, Smith went through an adoption ceremony where he was formally made a son of the tribe. Most interesting was Gellman's observation that the story of Pocahontas saving Smith's life did not surface until after her death. 'Smith wrote these events three different times. Each was published. Only in the third version does he mention her, when David Gelllman PCL 2010.jpgeveryone associated with it was dead,' noted Gellman. People chose to remember this as a romance because they like to believe in alternatives, explained the history professor."

Gellman also discussed pirates and the Salem Witch Trial in his presentation.

Read the complete article at the newspaper's Web site.

David Gellman is author of Emancipating New York: The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777-1827 and co-editor of Jim Crow New York: A Documentary History of Race and Citizenship, 1777-1877.

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