I have found this phrase on New York Times recently. And I couldn't figure out the meaning of let freedom ring. I tried searching the meaning on the dictionary too.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

  • What is the context? Who is the speaker? More often, the expression is let x ring out, comparing the pealing of bells to a message that the speaker wants to spread. Jul 30, 2020 at 15:00
  • This was written by John Lewis who died few days ago. He was Civil Right Activist. @RonaldSole Jul 30, 2020 at 15:15
  • The late US Representative John Lewis was quoting a very famous Martin Luther King speech called “I Have a Dream“ which borrows the phrase from the patriotic song “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”. In which freedom should figuratively ring out like a (Liberty) bell for all to hear.
    – Dean F.
    Jul 30, 2020 at 19:22

4 Answers 4


This is the final line from the first verse of the patriotic song America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee). This song is extremely well known in the US and is sung nearly as often as the actual national anthem, so in part, the author is using this phrase to evoke a feeling of patriotism and love of country simply by referencing a patriotic song that all Americans would know.

The phrase is using the meaning of the verb to ring: "to make or cause to make a clear vibrating sound" metaphorically. Freedom itself is not a sound, but "letting freedom ring" means to exercise your freedom clearly and openly, in this case by standing up for a just cause in a nonviolent way.


When reading “let freedom ring” just now, I imagined not the iconic song America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee) but rather the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. with what is perhaps his most famous speech: I Have a Dream (which itself is referencing the song). You can read (or watch) the full speech online to see what you think, but the way I interpret the speech is that “freedom” is not available to all Americans as “the life of the colored American is still sadly crippled by the manacle of segregation and the chains of discrimination” (he later lists specific examples). King wants to see all of the great freedoms of America available for everyone: “ring out” evokes images of a bell ringing for everyone to hear.

There’s a bit of important context here that makes me certain that this is the correct interpretation: John Lewis was a “civil rights leader”, the essay is about black rights, and he even mentioned King by name later in the essay.

  • @Lambie What are you asking? I specifically mentioned the fact that King’s speech is referenced the song.
    – Laurel
    Jul 30, 2020 at 16:24
  • The metaphor, in the song, as used by MLK and John Lewis is that freedom rings out like a bell. A learner might not know that...
    – Lambie
    Jul 30, 2020 at 16:26

It is a metaphor for a bell.

freedom is a bell that rings (a big one like in a church tower or public building tower with a bell).

When bells ring, they are often associated with positive things.

The metaphor is from the song America, My Country 'Tis of Thee

Song Lyrics

My country, 'tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty Of thee I sing; Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims' pride, From every mountain side Let Freedom ring.


It's all about the 2nd bell that hangs in NC. It was the back up bell to the Liberty Bell. It will ring.

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