Story of American Freedom Told Through 50 Historic Documents

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The history of American liberty is a collage of individual struggles—for independence from England, for the abolition of slavery, for a woman’s right to vote.

Fifty documents showing the evolution of American freedom have been restored and digitized by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) thanks to support from Bank of America. On September 17, Constitution Day, HSP will launch a new website called Preserving American Freedom (at hsp.org/freedom), where viewers can explore these 50 documents and learn how Americans have interpreted and fought for freedom from the 1600s to the present.

From Constitution Day through Election Day (September 17 - November 5) visitors to the website can take a 10-question Freedom Quiz for a chance to win a trip for two to Philadelphia (including roundtrip airline tickets courtesy of Southwest Airlines and a one-night hotel stay) and an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, with an opportunity see these historic documents firsthand. Complete rules and eligibility requirements are posted on the website.

To learn more about Preserving American Freedom and the documents featured on the site, follow HSP on Facebook and Twitter (@historicalpa). Starting on Constitution Day, HSP will share an interesting fact about one of the featured documents every day.

At Preserving American Freedom, visitors can read a handwritten draft of the United States Constitution, a deed between William Penn and the Delaware Indians, letters written by women’s suffrage activist Dora Kelly Lewis and dozens of other momentous documents that each tell a piece of the story of American freedom.

The documents on Preserving American Freedom have been transcribed and annotated using TEI markup (Text Encoding Initiative), which will allow visitors to better understand the people, issues, and relationships featured in each document. The project includes resources for K-12 educators and links to other related documents, photographs and collection materials that are widely available for the first time. The documents are set in historical context through essays by noted scholars and professors, including Eric Foner, a preeminent scholar on American freedom.

Preserving American Freedom was funded by a grant from Bank of America. One of the world’s leading corporate supporters of arts and culture, Bank of America is committed to creating connections with people and cultures worldwide through preserving and increasing access to cultural and historical treasures.

“We are committed to supporting institutions such as the Historical Society of Pennsylvania that contribute to our local economy and cultural understanding,” said Tom Woodward, Bank of America’s Pennsylvania president. “Preserving American Freedom not only helps restore these important pieces of our heritage, it makes them available to people all over the world.”

Documents that are part of Preserving American Freedom include:

  • William Penn’s 1682 deed with the Delaware Indians
  • A 1765 resolution from the Stamp Act Congress
  • Handwritten draft of the Constitution
  • A “Declaration of Liberty” written by Owen Brown, son of abolitionist John Brown
  • An 1862 petition seeking the right of African Americans to ride streetcars in Philadelphia
  • Letters from women's suffrage activist Dora Kelly Lewis
  • Letters from the Iwata family, held in an internment camp during World War II