AMH 2020 – American History II Essay Example

  • Category:
  • Document type:
  • Level:
  • Page:
  • Words:


American History II


The aim of this essay is to define and understand the changing meaning of freedom from the perspective of various authors. Based on excerpts of authors writing in post-independent America, freedom had a lot of meaning to women and minorities living in America at the time. Freedom is defined and synthesized from the point of view of these authors. In the nutshell, it shows that minorities have struggled to have their voices heard and freedom has been won through piece meal reforms with setbacks.

What is Freedom?

I define freedom as the dignity and respect extended to all men and women who share the same creator, God, and the right to belong to the human family irrespective of race or tribe. Enslavement is crimes that deprive humans of their basic freedoms to movement, expression and association. Ownership right is one aspect that demonstrates that people have free to use and dispose1. For example, most African-Americans after the Reconstruction period were dispossessed of their land. As a result, they thought that as freed men they had been emancipated from unpaid, forced labor. However, freedom from poverty and squalor became a new ideal to seek attention from institutions and the government. This means that freedom is not just a physical liberation, but the virtue of being accepted in totality as part of a human community and an entity worthy of respect and honor.

Freedom is that capacity for people and institutions to act without coercion and suppression by powers that seek to maintain status quo. The World Almanac in the Populist Platform (1892) asserts that “…public opinion is silenced and the media muzzled as land is concentrated under few capitalists…millionaires and tramps are as a result created by the same injustice perpetrated by government injustice.”2 The World Almanac defines freedom as a means to justify and balance economic inequalities brought by a spirited toil by masses only to be amassed by a few. In effect, the author calls upon the political class to appropriate taxes and public projects to benefit the poor. I agree that institutions should have some degree of control, but gagging the media and suppressing the rights of people to economic progress is curtailing the very rights of freedom encapsulate in the constitution.

Freedom is the undying will to be liberated from emotional and psychological bondage. In Home Life (1875) manuscript extracted from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Man holds immense power over women through dubious laws. Fear for loss of family relation and timid reformers still subject women to spectators during elections and regular abuse at home. Marriage must be a true union of both body and soul for it to acquire dignity and new sacredness.”3 Elizabeth Stanton defines freedom as the aspect of gender equality where women have respect, dignity and say in family and political processes. Indeed, women need that freedom to make decisions not only in their conjugal life but also in choice of marriage partners and who to relate with. I believe that freedom to women is the greater involvement and having a voice that is heard because we can build a nation through individual contribution of ideas, thoughts and values. I think that equality is a transitional virtue if women are to overcome social upheavals and slavery into the abyss of freedom.

Moreover, Walter Fleming writes in The Mississippi Black Code (1865) that “…new laws, Black Codes, were passed to regulate marriage, property ownership and access to justice. However, Blacks could not testify in White cases, vote or serve in state militia and juries. They were also required to work on plantations despite a free hand by the federal government.”4 Fleming looks at freedom as the inalienable right to individuals, of color, and free labor. It shows that despite the Reconstruction policies of Andrew Johnson, there were suppressive and oppositional forces that did not want extension of freedom to oppressed people. I think that freedom should be entrenched in both the constitution and practice to ensure that nobody retracts or resorts to violations of the same laws. From the perspective of the author, freedom is recognizing the rights of minorities without retracting abuse the same principles and policies that awarded them.


In this essay, I have defined freedom as the recognition of humanity where minorities have a right to land, vote and expression. By comparing with definitions from three other authors, I found that they are articulating similar values, aspirations and principles. While one author reiterated media and economic freedom, others exalted the struggle of women to liberty and equality, and Black people from bondage and oppression. In one way, freedom epitomizes the human desire to be free and just in a world where they share the same Creator, God.


  1. Henry Bram et al. (1865). Petition of Committee on Behalf of the Freedmen to Andrew Johnson (1865). National Archives. p.27.

  2. The World Almanac. (1893). The Populist Platform (1892). In the Freedom’s Boundaries, at Home and Abroad, 1890-1900. p. 49-52.

  3. Stanton, E.C. (1875). Elizabeth Cady Stanton, ‘Home Life’ (1875). Library of Congress.

  4. Fleming, W.L. (1906-07). The Mississippi Black Code (1865). Documentary History of Reconstruction. Vol. 1, p.281-90.

1 Henry Bram et al. (1865). Petition to Andrew Johnson (1865). National Archives. p.27.

2 The World Almanac (1893). The Populist Platform (1892). New York. pp. 83-85.

3 Stanton, E.C. (1875). Home Life. In the ‘Voices of Freedom’. p. 15.

4 Fleming, W.L. (1906-07). The Mississippi Black Code (1865). p.281-90.