I was about to post on Facebook today “Happy Independence Day!”… and then I paused. Every year the 4th of July comes and I mindlessly wish everyone a Happy Independence Day. Not today though. Today I chose to question myself: Do you really understand what the 4th of July represents? You were taught in school what this date signifies but do you claim its significance for yourself? Now, when I pause to ask myself a question I usually work to answer the question to come to a resolve within myself.
The first person that popped into my head after I asked myself these questions was the abolitionist and former slave, Mr. Fredrick Douglass and his Independence Day Speech of 1852. I re-read it today and got goosebumps! Impactful, world changing TRUTH usually has that effect on me. Here are some excerpts below:
“I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you, that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation (Babylon) whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin.”
“What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mock; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.”
I forgot. I forgot about this speech and I forgot that Africans were slaves while these ex-Britons were declaring their freedom. I forgot to remember and I am ashamed. I then had to read the Declaration of Independence for myself after reading Mr. Douglass’ quote.
The 2nd Paragraph of The Declaration of Independence states and I quote:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”
“…experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Well I’LL BE!…
How do such powerful truths in the Declaration of Independence, that helped to declare freedom for these ex-Britons on July 4th, 1776, take 87 years after it was issued to be understood that it also incorporated African slaves?!
That means they did not even consider the slaves as men or human, thus they had no rights. Eighty Seven (87) years later slaves were granted their freedom but they still were not treated as “…all men being created equal.” It wasn’t for another 101 years before African Americans and other minorities received equal rights as American citizens.
Furthermore, what about the Native Americans of whom so many of the ex-Britons killed and stole the land from on which they then stood and claimed their freedom on July 4th 1776?
It seems like the only people that were free at that time were them with their selfish ambitions. Yes, selfish. Selfish because they were thinking about them and their own not about the other human beings they were oppressing just like their previous rulers. The irony is that they were oppressing the Africans and Indians just like the King of Great Britain did to them on the day that they were declaring their independence. Wow! One word: Hypocrisy. To make it worse they did it all in the name of God… just like the King of Great Britain did. **SMH**
Nevertheless, I don’t judge these former Britons. They only behaved in the manner in which they are predisposed to act in. They are only… human. Humans are prone to being hypocritical and most times they do not even realize it. Sometimes, being consumed with our own ambitions and pursuits can cause us to be blind to what needs our attention and efforts right now. The good thing is, as time took its course, Americans saw the wrong that was done by the forefathers of the country and tried their best and are still trying to rectify it… well… at least some of the Americans. Sadly, some are still stuck in a 1776 mentality but that is another topic for another day.
Now, with a better understanding of July 4th and with more knowledge about the political atmosphere at that time, I do wish all those who have benefited from the Declaration of Independence a Happy Independence Day. I have also chosen to remember the following dates as they too are monumental to the freedom and rights of Americans:
- January 1, 1863: The issuance of the executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln which proclaimed the freedom of slaves.
- July 2, 1964: The issuance of the “Civil Rights Act of 1964” that outlawed major forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and women.
- June 2, 1924: The issuance of the “Indian Citizenship Act” (or “Snyder Act”) signed by President Calvin Coolidge, which granted full citizenship to America’s indigenous peoples.
It’s important for us to take time to remember; reminisce. Take time to know your history so you can understand the present and have a better perspective of the future. Understand why you do what you do. Find the meaning of your traditional practices and beliefs and see if they are your own. Always pursue and apply truth because only in the truth is there true freedom.