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The Idea of America

Two new books show how values have shaped our history

My America: An Owner’s Guide by William E. White | 152 pages | $19.95

The Idea of America: Our Values, Our Legacy, Our Future by John Oliver Wilson | 168 pages | $25

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“The Idea of America” began as a digital program for high schoolers, examining American history through the prism of eight values Americans share — freedom and equality, unity and diversity, private wealth and common wealth, law and ethics. The program explores how these values and the tensions between them have played out through history.

That approach to history and civics has now been adapted in two books, one aimed at late elementary and middle schoolers and the other at adult learners.

My America: An Owner’s Guide by William E. White asks kids to think about what it means to be an American. Who are “We the People”? How have Americans shaped their own history? Filled with kid-friendly stories and art, My America shows children that they can make a difference in their schools and ultimately in their communities and Nation.

White joined Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums in 1965 as a fifth-grader and retired as a vice president in 2016 after leading the Foundation’s media and educational outreach initiative.

The Idea of America: Our Values, Our Legacy, Our Future by John Oliver Wilson uses primary documents to explore how individuals have expanded America’s founding values to be more inclusive and shows how these documents and values relate to current issues. The book is the primary resource for a nationwide program — the Idea of America Network — aimed at adult learners and college, university and high school students. Jeffrey Edleson, dean of the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley, has called the book “a must-read for anyone who cares about the future of American society.”

Wilson is an economist whose career has spanned finance, academics and government. He is a member of the Foundation’s President’s Council.

Gifts for Everyone on Your List


The Art of Quilting: A Coloring and Pattern Book by Linda Baumgarten
The designs contained in these pages come from quilts in Colonial Williamsburg’s extraordinary collections. They can be colored or used as inspiration for quilts and other fiber arts.
Paperback | $9.95

Painters and Paintings in the Early American South by Carolyn J. Weekley
This lavishly illustrated study gathers into one volume work relating to art and artists dating from 1564 to 1790. It includes not only portraits — the predominant genre — but also seascapes, landscapes and pictures made by explorers and naturalists.
Hardcover | $39.95


Holiday Fare
Fun fare for the season, inspired by early American cooking. The choices range from Black-Eyed Peas with Grilled Red Onion Pickle to Buttery Rum Pumpkin Pie.
Hardcover | $16.95

The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook
Today’s cooks can feast on the beautiful photographs and fascinating history of traditional and updated dishes, from Brunswick Stew to Spoon Bread.
Hardcover | $21.99


Fifes and Drums
Fifes and Drums are the most iconic image and sound of Colonial Williamsburg. This elegant little book of photographs presents the corps in its many roles, from regulating the loading and firing of artillery to marching up Duke of Gloucester Street.
Hardcover | $7.95

Changing Keys: Keyboard Instruments for America 1700-1830 by John R. Watson
The transition from harpsichord to piano was a musical revolution. This book explores furniture design, regional and political influences, market and demographic shifts, manufacturing technologies, and the competition among makers and merchants.
Hardcover | $30

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