All Men Are Created Equal: Symbols, Slaves, and the Making of American Freedom



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The American republic was founded on the idea that all men are created equal and are entitled to inalienable rights including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. However, from its founding in 1776 to the end of the Civil War in 1865, millions of African American people were held in bondage in the South. This hypocrisy of American freedom ideology and slavery was not lost on the enslaved and the growing abolitionist movement. This project seeks to discover how those in slavery and their northern abolitionist allies interpreted and responded to rhetoric and symbols of American freedom. Evidence collected from primary sources such as 19th century newspaper articles and letters, determined that enslaved African American and abolitionists used symbols and rhetoric of American freedom to highlight the hypocrisy between America’s proclaimed ideals, while justifying and encouraging violent acts of anti-slavery resistance.