The Cause of Freedom
Jonathan Scott Holloway
What does it mean to be an American? The story of the African American past demonstrates the difficulty of answering this seemingly simple question.
What does it mean to be an American? The story of the African American past demonstrates the difficulty of answering this seemingly simple question. If being “American” means living in a land of freedom and opportunity, what are we to make of those Americans who were enslaved and who have suffered from the limitations of second-class citizenship throughout their lives? African American history illuminates the United States’ core paradoxes, inviting profound questions about what it means to be an American, a citizen, and a human being.
This book considers how, for centuries, African Americans have fought for what the black feminist intellectual Anna Julia Cooper called “the cause of freedom.” It begins in Jamestown in 1619, when the first shipment of enslaved Africans arrived in that settlement. It narrates the creation of a system of racialized chattel slavery, the eventual dismantling of that system in the national bloodletting of the Civil War, and the ways that civil rights disputes have continued to erupt in the more than 150 years since Emancipation. The Cause of Freedom carries forward to the Black Lives Matter movement, a grass-roots activist convulsion that declared that African Americans’ present and past have value and meaning. At a moment when political debates grapple with the nation’s obligation to acknowledge and perhaps even repair its original sin of racialized slavery, The Cause of Freedom tells a story about our capacity and willingness to realize the ideal articulated in the country’s founding document, namely, that all people were created equal.
"In this engagingly written volume, Jonathan Holloway has penned the perfect short history of African Americans, beginning his sweeping narrative with the arrival of Africans on the shore of Jamestown in 1619 and ending with the emergence of Black Lives Matter. Throughout this compelling history, Holloway challenges the reader to consider what it means to be an American, a citizen, and, most importantly, a human being. The Cause of Freedom is both a wonderful introduction to African American history for those new to the topic and a handy reference for those who are well-versed in the field." --Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University "In this meditation on what is meant by American, Jonathan Holloway manages to identify critical questions that excavate the relationship between the past and the present. This is an important read for both newcomers and old-timers who want to know more about African American history." --Earl Lewis, Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies and Public Policy
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