Cultural Legacy- Literature

The Barbary conflicts generated a plethora of literature and cultural events that not only interpreted America’s interactions with North Africa, but also commented upon domestic issues. For instance, Susanna Rowson’s 1794 play Slaves in Algiers:  or, a Struggle for Freedom argued that it was hypocritical for Americans to mourn the fate of the (white) American captives in Algiers while accepting the enslavement of Africans in the United States.  Additionally, Slaves in Algiers called for women’s rights and condemned patriarchy.  One of the main characters (named Fetnah) compared women’s position in society to a “poor bird that is confined in a cage….tho’ its prison is of golden wire, its food delicious, and it is overwhelm’d with caresses, its little heart still pants for liberty.”[1]

Francis Scott Key (famous for writing “The Star Spangled Banner”), wrote a commemorate hymn about the Tripolitan War that the Boston newspaper Independent Chronicle published on December 30, 1805.  It used the same tune as “The Star Spangled Banner” (“Anacreon”).  Here is the third stanza:

In the conflict resistless, each toil they endured,
‘Till their foes fled dismayed from the war’s desolation:
And pale beamed the Crescent, its splendor obscured
By the light of the Star Spangled flag of our nation.
Where each radiant star gleamed a meteor of war,
And the turbaned heads bowed to its terrible glare,
Now, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave,
And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.

© New Content and Website 2011, 2015

[1] Susanna Rowson, Slaves in Algiers; or, a Struggle for Freedom (Philadelphia:  Wrigley &

Berriman, 1794), 5-6.