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In America, Trees Symbolize Both Freedom and Unfreedom

A group of tree trunks.

Image by RichardBH via Flickr, under CC BY 2.0.

Extralegal violence committed by white men in the name of patriotism is a founding tradition of the United States. It is unbearably fitting that the original Patriot landmark, the Liberty Tree in Boston, sported a noose, and inspired earliest use of the metaphor “strange fruit.” The history of the Liberty Tree and a related symbol, the Tree of Slavery, illustrates American entanglements of race and place, nature and nation.

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Jared Farmer is a professor of history at Stony Brook University, New York, USA. He is the author of “Taking Liberties with Historic Trees” in The Journal of American History (March 2019), for which this blog post serves as amplification. He can be reached through his websiteInstagram, and Facebook.

For more from the Journal of American History, click here.