The Fourth of July: We The People

Terrol Perkins
Data News Weekly Conbributor

Every summer, Americans of all colors and creeds celebrate the day that the United States formally declared independence from Great Britain on July 4th. For it was on this historic day in 1776 that the Founding Fathers accepted the Declaration of Independence, deciding that it was no longer an option for the American colonies to be readmitted into the British Empire after having their rights and liberties infringed upon by the Crown. Although the Revolutionary War raged on for another four years, the Founders of this country cemented their breakaway from the “mother country” in the 1783 Treaty of Paris.

While many Americans (mainly White Americans) had gained their freedom from a country they claimed was the very steward of oppression, hundreds of thousands of Black enslaved people were still in bondage. It would be almost a century later until Black Americans were finally free from the vile condition of forced servitude. In fact, many African Americans celebrate June 19th, 1865, as the day when slavery officially ended in the United States. We call this holiday “Juneteenth” or “Emancipation Day.”

In 1852, nine years before the Civil War, Frederick Douglass gave a blistering speech on July 4th at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In his address, Douglass spoke of the hypocrisy surrounding the American Founding and the atrocious treatment of African Americans in the United States. “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in the Declaration of Independence, extended to us?” Douglass skillfully exclaimed at the gathering. Despite his scathing reproach of the contradicting original intent of the Founding Fathers, Douglass never fathomed that the United States was irredeemable. In fact, we wanted our country to truly live up to the ideals it so preaches of liberty and justice. He was also a proud patriot who believed that freedom must be achieved through acts of bravery and sacrifice, even if it means laying down one’s life. Two of Douglass’ sons served in the Union Army in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, one of the most celebrated African American units in the Civil War.

Although Blacks Americans were not citizens when the Declaration of Independence was signed, our country has come a long way in the battle for equality. From slavery to the Reconstruction period, and Jim Crow, Black Americans have proven to be one of the most patriotic groups in America for their unwavering faith in the American dream and the desire of achieving a level playing field that all citizens are promised in the Constitution. I chose to celebrate both the Fourth of July and Juneteenth. The first holiday reminds of this country’s potential, despite the original intent of the founders, while the second reminds me of how far we have come.

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