The 4th of July is complicated for Black people…well some. While America was celebrating its freedom from Britain, they still held hundreds of thousands of Black people in captivity. How do you celebrate freedom when we’re only free-ish? More inside….
Black Americans are always reminded of our complicated relationship to this country, especially when the country celebrates the 4th of July/Independence Day.
On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was passed, declaring the freedom of the 13 American colonies from Great Britain. While colonists celebrated their independence, there were still hundreds of thousands of Black people still enslaved.
The last enslaved African-Americans weren’t notified that they were free until June 19, 1865, which is why we celebrate Juneteenth, which just became a national holiday last year. And still, 157 years later, Blacks in America are still only “free-ish.”
The 4th of July put America’s hypocrisy on BLAST - how are you celebrating freedom while simultaneously enslaving folks?
Abolitionist Frederick Douglas called America out in a significant keynote address he delivered in Rochester, New York titled “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” on July 5, 1852.
"What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly 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 denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; 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 on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”
”The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretence, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home.”
After the Civil War ended in 1865, Blacks could actually celebrate "freedom," so Independence Day became a holiday blacks would celebrate with family gatherings where they would recite the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment. White Southerners saw the 4th of July as a celebration of Confederate defeat. In the 1870s, white mobs began to terrorize Blacks celebrating on the 4th.
So, the 4th of July has a lot of history behind it and Blacks still debate whether the holiday should be celebrated or not. Check out a few tweets on social media about it:
Fighting for freedom on July 4th by making peoples commutes miserable long after their original espoused concerns (vax mandates) are no longer an issue https://t.co/5hfqhwGdmQ
— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) July 4, 2022
If this is the first Fourth of July that you have an issue with the United States, you are part of the problem.
— Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) July 4, 2022
Happy 4th of July! Did you know that Black and Indigenous soldiers made up a quarter of General George Washington's troops during the Revolutionary War?
This is a holiday for *all* Americans, so let's honor *all* those who fought for our nation's independence. pic.twitter.com/K1Qw4yip1v
— Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (@RepBonnie) July 4, 2022
Dear Black people,
The 4th of July is not our day. pic.twitter.com/72nrJLYdx9
— Derenic Byrd (@DerenicByrd) July 2, 2022
I’m wearing black and hanged my flag upside down.
— (@adrianVenditti) July 4, 2022
Did yo black ass just tell me “Happy 4th Of July” ? pic.twitter.com/PgbtMn1gcE
— (@Trill_Smoke) July 4, 2022
The U.S. in June: Hey Black people, we’re sorry for what happened, here’s a holiday.
2 weeks later: Happy 4th of July!
Even though we know Black people remained enslaved for another 89 YEARS, some of whom were owned
by authors of the same document
this day celebrates.
— Angel Jones, PhD (@AngelJonesPhD) July 4, 2022
This year I noticed a lot of people saying that it doesn’t “feel right” celebrating the 4th of July.
As an Indigenous person, I gotta say:
Welcome to how we feel.
Many Black and Indigenous people have felt this dissonance our whole lives.
— Cuchillo Lope (@HosteenCholo) July 4, 2022
I'd say Happy 4th of July, except it never really has been a holiday for All. Until everyone gets the right to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness, we truly don't have freedom in this country. Justice is key to freedom. Justice for #JaylandWalker& All black lives stolen!!!
— Pepper Oceanna Lewis (@PepperOceanna) July 4, 2022
4th of July and another innocent black man gunned down by 8 white police officers in Akron, Ohio .. tell me Wtf you Americans are celebrating today?! Y’all freedoms? You have none! Go out there and protest! Say his name #JaylandWalkerpic.twitter.com/WdPZvgI6Cr
— ms_djibouti (@DjiboutiMs) July 4, 2022
Do you think Black Americans should celebrate the 4th of July?
Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock