We write as if the definition of America is self-evident, thus the adjective "American" is self-evident as well.
Not so fast. I tried, and failed, to become a professor of American history. It's a hard term to define. Is it the history of the people who live or lived in America? Sounds like a good starting point, but do we include the history of the Native Americans? Does that make them more American than Americans, or less, or different?
Maybe we just limit the term to the history of the people who lived in America after 1492? Does that exclude the Spanish who settled in Florida and the Southwest, or the French who settled in New Orleans and Louisiana? Or do we say that they only became American when the US gained sovereignty over the land, so their history begins with acquisition?
The other related question is whether there are degrees of Americanness? Asking the question brings up, for those of us of a certain age, the divisiveness of the McCarthy times. But it's a good question, at least for the way we usually write. But it often excludes such groups as Native American tribes, the Amish/Mennonite community, the Hasidic Jewish community, etc. who don't fit neatly into generalizations about American.
This post was prompted by this piece, discussing the biggest slave revolt on soil now claimed by the US.
In the US Virgin Islands.