America250MI Program Themes*
The American Revolution separated the American government from Great Britain in order to form a free and unified nation. Despite this, Michigan’s people have struggled for liberty and freedom before, during, and after the American Revolution. Michigan has a history of its peoples fighting for freedom, recognition, and respect for basic human rights, whether it was along the Underground Railroad, in movements for civil and labor rights, or part of the continued struggle of Indigenous peoples to reclaim their cultural heritage and land. “Revolutions” or movements for freedom, recognition, and rights have never ceased and continue to this day.
We the People
Since the nation’s founding, definitions of “We the people,” the boundaries of national belonging, and the very nature of citizenship have changed. Being American today means something different than it did 250 years ago. “We” are American, but we also identify with different ethnicities, races, faiths, regions, and languages. Michigan is made up of more than 10 million unique people of different races, cultures, languages, ethnicities, religions, and points of view. The
term "Michigander" is defined as “a native or inhabitant of Michigan.” However, throughout Michigan’s past, many people have been excluded and not welcome to consider themselves Michiganders because of founding institutional documents
and laws. Every generation is an opportunity to advocate
Power of Place
Place is a powerful concept that allows us to view the past through the geographic, geologic, and physical environment while also being aware of the political, economic, historic, cultural, and emotional connections to it. It has become human nature to identify ourselves by place, like our region, state, county, city, or nearby geographical landmarks. As children, Michiganders are even taught to use their hands (mittens) to represent a Michigan “map.” Michigan has become the physical place we know today through wars and the establishment of treaties, ordinances, and statehood. Understanding past and present connections to place can inform current and future challenges.
The leaders of the past did not have all the answers. Though their government based on democracy and a rights-based constitution was innovative, they knew the nation was an experiment. When we look at the founding documents of our country and our state, we can reflect on those excluded from the original American Experiment. There were intentional omissions of tribes, people of color, women, and immigrants. Now is our opportunity to reconsider the origins of our government, democratic institutions, and broader civic life
and reflect on the ways we have changed them over time.
Our participation is key to shape the nation during this continuing American Experiment.
As those who love, teach, preserve, or make history, we must work together with our communities to interact with Michigan’s past. Now is the time to openly engage our communities in conversations about what history is, how it is done, and why it matters. By being open and transparent to help communities understand the methods, sources, evidence, and perspectives that influence history,
we can inform how community members can
engage with history in their own lives and how
history can speak to the current challenges our communities face.