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June 24, 2021 38 min

If you’ve taken part in a part in a protest recently, perhaps you carried a sign, waved a flag, or worn a special hat.

But if you had grievances in the American Revolution or early Republic, you might have helped raise a Liberty Pole.

Now, you may ask yourself, what good is a large wooden pole gonna do about my high taxes?

And you may ask yourself, do I really want to lift this heavy thing?

Turns out, as the days went by in the late eighteenth century, many Americans thought Liberty Poles were the perfect way to signal their collective displeasure and rally their countrymen against some perceived wrong.

And what one group could put up, another could most assuredly pull down.

On today’s episode, we’ll hear from Dr. Shira Lurie, an expert on these strange objects and the meaning they held for Americans in the founding generation. Americans used Liberty Poles to argue over a citizen’s role in a republic. And what was a symbol of liberty to some, was an icon of tyranny to others.

Lurie is an Assistant Professor of History at St. Mary’s University in Nova Scotia. She’s the author an article recently published in the Journal of the Early American Republic entitled, “Liberty Poles and the Fight for Popular Politics in the Early Republic.”

Besides Liberty Poles, Lurie tells us how she tries to reach many different audiences as a historian, and what it’s like to teach American history in both Canada and the United States.

About our Guest:

Shira Lurie, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of History at St. Mary's University. She is a political historian of the early United States with particular interests in popular politics, protest, and political violence. Her current book project explores liberty poles and debates over dissent in the early republic. She also thinks, teaches, and writes about historical memory in public space and popular culture.


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