Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2021


To some, the Pledge of Allegiance is a patriotic celebration of the nation, as it was advertised since its beginning. However, it is not simply a salute to a flag. It is also vow of loyalty to the nation, a vow that is consistently repeated by schoolchildren to ensure that loyalty is ingrained in them from the start, before they can even cognitively grasp the meaning of a vow, loyalty, or even the nation. This is because when the Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892, the United States, and its people, were undergoing tremendous change. It was becoming a nation of executives and laborers, businessmen and consumers. It was becoming a nation of new immigrants and new ideas. To those without power, that change was opportunity, but for those who enjoyed power and privilege that change was perceived as a threat. In this era, the Pledge of Allegiance was written and spread as a way to make patriots of new Americans to ensure that those newcomers did not change the whole fabric of the nation. As those self-proclaimed defenders of the nation advocated the Pledge of Allegiance for this nationalizing purpose it, however, became a source of division rather than unity as certain groups pushed back against attempts to compel their children to recite it. Because the flag is a symbol and symbols are open to interpretation, different segments of the population sought to ensure that their version of the flag, along with what their version of what being an American means, would be recognized. They sought to have a voice in what people were pledging both allegiance and obedience to in these years of rapid change.



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