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Jan 06 2022 - 10:00 AM
Today In History: Four Freedoms


“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms."

-Franklin Roosevelt, Annual Message to Congress, January 6, 1941

On January 6th, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered a highly significant State of the Union Address; he outlined continuing support from the United States as a supplier of ammunition, airplanes, tanks, food, and raw materials to the British and Allied forces, and then articulated a clear, strong vision of the four fundamental human freedoms: freedom of speech; freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Delivered after a lengthy pause in his speech, Roosevelt's striking remarks helped unite the world post-WW2, with similar foundational values and principles later expressed in Winston Churchill's Atlantic Charter; the Declaration of the United Nations; and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The German army and Axis powers were advancing, with war raging in Europe and North Africa. Italy had launched a counter-offensive attack in Albania against the Greeks (the first of 46 Italian raids). Great Britain and Australia poised troops for military action in Libya, South Africa, and other parts of the African continent. Despite many Americans wishing to remain "isolationist" and avoid involvement in international conflict, the United States decided to enter full combat in December 1941 following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

The Four Freedoms as articulated by Roosevelt are inspiration for educational art and dedicated public spaces. Eponymous artworks by Norman Rockwell were published with related essays in The Saturday Evening Post in February and March, 1943. Distributed as prints and posters, his illustrations raised over 132 million dollars, then applied toward the war effort through the purchase of war bonds. In praise of the Four Freedom's Park, a memorial to FDR on Roosevelt Island in New York City, here is an excerpt of a poetic adaption from Bloomberg's critic James Russell:

"Subtle and dignified homage to the president,

Bookended by sloping granite slabs,

it rises just 12 feet to the top of a massive berm,

it evokes Romantic Classicism of the French Enlightenment.

A tidy downward-sloping lawn,

Symmetrically lined by linden trees,

Delicately screen the city views.

A bust depicting a serene Roosevelt,

Floats within a granite niche.

A roofless room,

evoking an unfinished classical temple.

The high sides leave you in a calm, austere space,

frames the sky overhead

and the swirling river waters winding their way to the sea."

The following articles are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.



  • Four Freedoms Curriculum Hub. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Provides historic context, central issue, key questions, primary sources, classroom activities, links for more information, and distance learning opportunities.

  • Roosevelt, Franklin Delano. “Four Human Freedoms.” Human Rights Quarterly 6.3 (1984): 384–385. excerpt from the Address of the President



  • Special News Slide, Courtesy of the Gottesman Libraries


Need to keep current, look to the past, teach a topic? The Everett Cafe features daily postings of news from around the world, and also promotes awareness of historical events from an educational context. Be sure to check the news postings on Learning at the Library, where you can delve into history.

Posted in: Learning at the LibraryNews Cafe|By: Jennifer Govan|199 Reads