Symbols of Freedom: Slavery and Resistance Before the Civil War

NYU. Jun. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9781479823246. $29.95. HIST
In this study of the role that language and symbols of American freedom and revolution played in enslavement in the United States, Clavin (history, Univ. of Houston; The Battle of Negro Fort) examines the country in its infancy, pre–Civil War. He does this through the lens of nationalism, which Clavin believes has been overlooked in recent scholarship. His comfort with primary sources, including songs and images, enhances the book for use in curricula. A noteworthy chapter focuses on Frederick Douglass’s famous speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” This book also thoroughly examines the symbolism of the flag and the Fourth and Fifth of July, but the author’s probe of the history of U.S. patriotism is untraditional due to his exploration of its influence on violent enslavement and resistance to it.
VERDICT In an era where many people in the U.S are protesting racism, this book is important reading for audiences of all levels to gain an understanding of past symbols of freedom and resistance and a way of looking forward.
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