Land of the Free

We study US history in school, learning about our valiant founding fathers. At baseball games we sing our national anthem that hails the United States as the “land of the free.” Is it? Was it founded upon the ideals of freedom for all people? Women of any race, African Americans and American Indians weren’t the populations those founders intended to liberate or allow to vote. What are the facts of those times?

Forty-one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves. That is circumstantial evidence of their intentions in separating from England to preserve that institution, of course. Let’s look at the historical progression: British taxes on sugar (1764); then taxes on tea and paper (publishing) made the colonists grumble and begin the Continental Correspondence. In 1772, when the British court ruled on the Somerset Case, that a Black slave became free once they stepped foot in England, the “founding fathers” decided that was just about enough. Slaves free in England! Would the Colonies be far behind? Slave owners in the 13 colonies would lose a great source of their wealth.

Soon after that news, the struggle began in earnest, Correspondence Circles in the Colonies became centers of insurgency. The papers were drawn. In an often repeated paragraph, the Declaration of Independence says,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The words sound so honorable and exemplary, if we believe they mean everyone. They really did not. Rights were exclusively for slaveholding and landowning men, not all humans. It is clear that Men meant European Men, with no apologies to those excluded.  I read the revisionist US history, An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz. What I learned shook to the core the founding myths I’d accepted as truth. A central thesis is Independence was not solely to escape tyranny, but to preserve slavery.

British colonies still connected with the Motherland freed their slaves in 1833. We can accept or reject the theory that slave holders in what became the United States pushed for independence to maintain their work force and source of revenue; people as property. The truth is, becoming separate from England did prolong slavery and since a great deal of money was involved, it would not seem surprising that it was intentional.

What of our southern neighbor? After the Mexican Revolution the African slaves who lived there were freed in 1829, a law promoted by their Afro-Mexican President Vicente Guerrero I wrote about earlier. Throughout the mid-1800s one branch of the Underground Railroad went south to libertad. Mexico welcomed our refugees.

Have we achieved liberty for all in the US? If we each act with compassion, we may get closer to our ideals. I’ll quote our alternate national anthem as a call for economic independence, education, and justice for each person within our borders, “from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

What is your definition of freedom?

Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco! ¡Olé! –Rebecca

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4FREEDM License Plate   Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

Recommended Reading

  • An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
  • Slave Nation: How Slavery United The Colonies And Sparked The American Revolution, by Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen.

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14 thoughts on “Land of the Free

  1. Slavery and the breaking of treaties with Native Americans are Original sins” which will have to be recognized and for which some atonement will have to be made

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Slavery and the breaking of treaties with Native Americans are Original sins” which will have to be recognized and for which some atonement will have to be made. These concepts must be taught to our children so a dialogue which has begun can be continued

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think a large part of progressing forward in our society and continued transformation and healing would be for everyone to stop centering their lives on things that happened hundreds of years ago. History is just that, history and every nation has one and none of them are without blemish. Not one of us has been a slave, known a slave, owned a slave. Not one of us walked the trail of tears nor compelled others to do so.
    Who then should make amends?
    There are none alive today who had any part of it…..not even a government official and asking the government to do so is in fact asking all of us even the victims (who dont exist today) to pay for which was not their doing.
    To quote a phrase…we’ve come a long way, baby. Our trek may not be done but we are healing ourselves. There are few families who are not by now multi racial. Maybe, just maybe, love can heal the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comments, Laura. I appreciate you sharing your viewpoint on where we go from here. Love is a great and powerful force to achieve harmony. Dialogue about US society is one important reason I wrote this post, another was taking stock of where we
      started. I’d like us to live the words of the Independence document so we may all enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Welcome to fake flamenco! -Rebecca

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a timely topic for sure. Reparations for the ancestors of those enslaved in the USA was a hot topic early on in the Democratic debates, especially in the way it was addressed by then candidate Marianne Williamson. The pressing question is how to make those oft-repeated words from the Declaration of Independence ring true in today’s American society.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Henry. Since we continue to see such unequal wealth distribution between Black and White Americans so many centuries later, it is an important issue to discuss. What will create economic justice? -Rebecca

      Like

  5. Very good post and interesting points that you make. I think it is unfair to judge people from other times by the standards of this, our time. And although I believe that immorality, unfair practices, cruelty and intolerance are universal evils, they have been evaluated and judged by different standards throughout the ages. Love your writings and your themes!

    Liked by 1 person

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