We see her everyday of our lives: as Lady Freedom atop the Capitol dome, an everyday backdrop to the evening news, or as the Statue of Liberty, flashing across our TV screens in endless commercials and news spots. The silent, blank face of our "lady liberty"--wherever it appears--has become an omnipresent symbol of freedom to the people of the United States. We know her instantaneously, an American reflex built in since kindergarten.

But how well do we really know her? What does freedom truly mean? And how has its definition changed for different groups at different times? Reaching beyond the stone stares of these two American symbols may provide some clues to how Americans have perceived their own liberties and opportunities throughout history. Intended to stand as one overarching icon of the greatness of the United States, Lady Liberty today comes clad in several layers of significance--from the hypocrisy of slavery to the simultaneous welcome and rejection of immigrants. By exploring Liberty's historical and political roots, and by listening to the varying voices singing and lamenting Lady Liberty, we may uncover a more comprehensive understanding of how Americans interpret liberty.

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