What Does Freedom Mean to You

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What Does Freedom Mean to You

Saturday, February 1st is National Freedom Day. National Freedom Day commemorates the day Abraham Lincoln signed a joint resolution that proposed the 13th amendment to the Constitution.  The amendment was created to outlaw slavery and was ratified on December 18, 1865. Many people in the United States reflect on the importance of freedom on this day. Many schools incorporate themes relating to National Freedom Day as part of class discussion, readings, and other learning activities. Teachers around the country have found ways to bring National Freedom Day into their classroom. Here are a few ways you can do that. 

Quotes for Writing Prompts:

  1. “I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.” – Robert A. Heinlein
  2. “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” – William Faulkner
  3. “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” – Noam Chomsky
  4. “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
  5. “The secret of happiness is freedom, the secret of freedom is courage.” – Carrie Jones

Videos for Discussion

What Does Freedom Mean to You? The Story of Us

How Would You Define Freedom? Asma Mansour TEDxAmsterdamWomen

How Do You Know If You’re Truly Free? Philip Petit TEDxNewYork

Freedom and Purpose, it’s what we all want Bianca Olthoff

Questions for Writing Prompts

  1. Writing about a past moment in your life when you felt most free. What was it about that that event/time/activity that gave you such a sense of freedom? What were its qualities? What were you free from, and what were you free to do?
  2. Thinking about that past moment of freedom, how do you experience (or not experience) that freedom in your life now?
  3. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is completely constrained and 10 is completely free, where do you place yourself today? Write about the reasons you place yourself in that part of the scale.
  4. List the qualities of freedom you wrote about in #1 (feel free to add to that list) and prioritize them. Which qualities are most important to you? For example, if my list includes autonomy (not having to answer to anyone else), freedom of movement, and freedom from worry, I might place autonomy first, freedom of movement second, and freedom from worry third.
  5. Have you ever had a time in your life where you felt constrained, trapped, or imprisoned in some way? Free write about that time and how it affected (and/or continues to affect) your subsequent life decisions.
  6. Do you believe that freedom is given to you by others, or made by you? Explain.
  7. Finally, how important is freedom to you today? What do you give up for personal freedom, if anything (security, safety, relationships, etc.)? And, what do you think has most influenced your attitudes and beliefs regarding personal freedom?

Readings for Discussion

 Freedom Song! The Story of Henry “Box” Brown by Sally Walker (Age Level 6-9)

Chasing Freedon: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, Inspired by Historical Facts by Nikki Grimes (Age Level 9-12)

We March by Shane Evans (Age Level 3-6)

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon (Age Level 16+)

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (Age Level 14-16)

Joseph Knight by James Robertson (Age Level 14+)

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (Age Level 16-18)

Movies on Freedom

Freedom Writers (2007) – PG-13

Harriet (2019) – PG-13

42 (2013) – PG-13

The Color Purple (1985) – PG-13

Mississippi Burning (1988) - R


One 5th grade classroom wrote short essays answering the question: What does freedom mean to you? The student’s answers were pretty inspiring, and I think every classroom should have an open and honest discussion of the topic.


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