The earliest form of literature in what would one day be known as America were far from what modern day people would consider "Literature". The Natives who inhabited this land first had unwritten ways of passing on experiences, beliefs, and stories. Natives relied heavily on the verbal telling of these stories to younger generations. The same stories, fables, or belief structures were told repeatedly, each time identical to the last, and were memorized by the listeners so they would be able to pass these on to the next generation. They also used pictures, carvings, or special mementos such as bones, teeth, feathers, or skins as reminders of great hunts or wars. If an entire tribe and all its descendants were killed off, the specific stories and history of that tribe would also be gone. Other tribes may speak of the first, but never in the same detail or with the same perspective as the original tribe members.
Long before settlers arrived in America, explorers reported on their voyages to the continent. Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci provided some of the earliest European descriptions of the American continent. Before 1600 Sir Walter Raleigh, Richard Hakluyt, Thomas Harriot, and John White had published accounts of discoveries.
The writings of Captain John Smith, an explorer whose travels took him up and down the eastern seaboard of America, represent a shift from exploration narrative toward early history. Early histories, however, were written mostly by settlers rather than by explorers. William Bradford, the first governor of the Plymouth Colony, wrote his Of Plymouth Plantation from 1620 to 1647 . Another important historian of early... [continues]
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