Growing up in the suburbs in Ohio, July 4 was a massive celebration. The whole city of Columbus came together for fireworks on July 3. However, the next morning I participated in a parade where seats were reserved on lawns a week early in anticipation for the best viewing. How much do we know about this holiday? We don’t believe that it’s our fault to celebrate without knowing the full truth. What is the truth?
What is Independence Day?
Independence Day is a federal holiday in the United States celebrated every year on July 4, in commemoration of the Declaration of Independence, signed in 1776. The 13 colonies claimed their independence from England, which eventually led to the formation of the United States. However, July 4, 1776, wasn’t the day that the Continental Congress decided to declare independence; it was on August 2, 1776. It wasn’t until 1783 the Fourth of July became a holiday in many places. The celebration included speeches, military events, parades, and fireworks.
The Declaration of Independence
This statement, written by Thomas Jefferson declaring the freedom of thirteen American colonies from Great Britain. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator.”
While we were fighting for freedom from Great Britain, the Declaration of Independence stated that “all men were created equal.” The existence of American slavery attracted comment when the Declaration of Independence was first published. Before the final approval, Congress, having made a few alterations to some of the wording, also deleted nearly a fourth of the draft, including a passage criticizing the slave trade. Forty-one of the fifty-six signers were slave owners. The slave trade was still a big part of America. Declaring that all men are created equal, transporting human beings to become slaves seems like a contradiction.
When American colonists took up arms in a battle for independence starting in 1775, it excluded black Americans. General George Washington stated on November 12, 1775, that “neither negroes” boys unable to bear arms, nor old men” could enlist in the Continental Army. Two days later, black soldiers proved themselves at the Battle of Kemp’s Landing along the Virginia coast.
Frederick Douglass gave a speech the day after Independence Day in 1852, saying “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn… Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?”. Douglass reminded listeners that when the Declaration of Independence was signed, many blacks were still slaves. The British were even more likely to offer freedom to blacks. According to Christopher Klein of the History channel, the patriots battled for independence from Great Britain, around 20,000 runaway slaves declared their own personal independence and fought on the side of the British.
What we should teach our kids about Independence Day
I spend hours searching the internet for “what to teach kids about Independence Day.” Many history books don’t tell the untold story that all men were and still are not created equal. Most of these blogs left out what they don’t want us to know. However, I do agree with the following teaching from the following blogs:
“We are blessed to live in a free country where we have the right to choose our religion, worship God how we want, and vote. That is a freedom that not all countries have.” – faithgateway.com
“I will tell them that the great founders of our nation spoke boldly of freedom, and enlisted African Americans to fight alongside them to the death of liberty. I will tell them that around 5,000 African Americans enlisted in and fought bravely in the Continental Army. I will tell them that these brave African American soldiers, their forefathers, did this, despite the fact that their enemy-the British-offered them freedom and their countrymen continued slavery. I will tell them that their forefathers fought for America even though America wasn’t fighting for them. – Los Angeles Sentinel
“On this day, celebrate the will power of the slaves who stayed alive and struggled through their hardships.” -The Black Media
July 2019 USA Holidays Calendar – Local and Federal Holidays. https://uricompare.com/july-2019-usa-holidays-calendar/
Independence Day of Ukraine – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Day_of_Ukraine
The Declaration of Independence: Full text – US History. http://www.ushistory.org/Declaration/document/
The Ex-Slaves Who Fought with the British – HISTORY. https://www.history.com/news/the-ex-slaves-who-fought-with-the-british
Talking to Kids about the Importance of Independence Day …. https://www.faithgateway.com/talking-to-kids-importance-of-independence-day/
For Black Americans, Independence Day Is Complicated …. https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2012/07/05/for-black-americans-independence-day-is-complicated