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Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915 Paperback – March 1, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (March 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558495282
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558495289
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,355,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Festivals of Freedom is a very good study of how African Americans have sought to use public space and the public sphere to advance freedom and equality.

(Indiana Magazine of History)

Scholars of African American, intellectual, and cultural history will welcome Kachun's judicious study of the variety and complexity of nineteenth and early twentieth century emancipation celebrations.... In clear, crisp prose, Kachun explains the varieties of freedom festivals and assesses their diverse meaning to whites and blacks alike.

(History: Reviews of New Books)

Kachun begins the long overdue project of restoring African American commemorations to their proper place in the civid live of nineteenth century America. His particular focus is emancipation celebrations, but his book addresses American and African American historical memory more broadly... A superb book that provides an essential foundation for subsequent scholarship on the topic.

(Civil War Book Review)

Kachun recaptures the reality of blacks' presence in public space, and their determination to assert a black-inclusive version of U.S. history. in addition, the author sensitively recounts conflicting black viewpoints on the making and maintaining of a commemorative tradition, as well as regional variation in the making and keeping of that tradition.... Substantially advances our knowledge of black organizations and interactions in the creation of a black commemorative tradition.


Drawing upon a diverse array of primary sources,... Kachun provides an impressive analysis of how African American leaders used freedom celebrations to create a collective memory, to uplift the race, and, more importantly, to claim their political rights.

(American Quarterly)

Kachun traces a distinctive era in the formation of African American institution of memory and activism in his examination of the phenomenon of freedom festivals, which proliferated in the years 1808-1915.... Kachun deftly teases out the complexity of this history. He chronicles simultaneous flux and continuity in the freedom festival tradition and illustrates organizers' difficult task of creating a distinct African American identity while attempting to demonstrate the inherent Americanness of African Americans to the broader society.... Highly recommended to readers interested in African American history, the transition from slavery to freedom, and broader questions about the construction of African American historical consciousness and the making of history.

(Journal of American History)

A major contribution to black culture,... filling in a historical gap about African American festivals of freedom that have too long escaped our calendar of celebrations.

(African American Review)

About the Author

MITCH KACHUN is associate professor of history at Western Michigan University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Karen Libman on November 25, 2006
I love Mitch Kachun! I cannot say enough good things about this author. The book is terrific, lucid and evocative. Really brings up new points. I heard him speak about this topic, which made me even more interested in the book. A real find.
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