Acts of Defiance: Symbols of Liberty

Faculty Sponsor

Samuel Graber


Christ College


Christ College

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-2-2015


Major national symbols that represent both freedom and United States identity include the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Fourth of July. Yet acts of defiance against these obvious national symbols also provide the public with important symbols of American liberty. Failing to consider these more complex symbolic acts leaves out a large part of what makes liberty truly liberty and America truly America. Studying such defiant acts allows people to understand the powerful status of the destructive acts as symbols of freedom, and the special image that America has as a bastion of liberty. The acts of defiance by William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass against the Constitution and the Fourth of July, for example, are significant symbols of freedom that enhance that image of the United States. This paper will show how Garrison's and Douglass' disobedient acts against the Constitution, as well as Garrison's "Address to the Colonization Society" and Douglass' "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" which criticize Independence Day, paradoxically serve as symbols of American liberty by attacking those chief symbols of liberty and America.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Alexander Uryga is a Christ College Honors College Scholar and previous president of the student body. He will be receiving his Bachelor of Arts in political science and history this May. He has always been interested in the concept of liberty, and he had the chance to study symbols of liberty for his honors thesis in Samuel Graber’s American Identities Christ College course. Someday, he hopes to use those studies to earn a doctoral degree in political science.

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