BY: Albert J. Lowe IV
As another Independence Day has come and gone, the grills have cooled and the smell of charcoal has disappeared; reality has set in. And once again, sadly, African Americans have spent hundreds of dollars – which we didn’t have – only to end up in debt after the party is over.
As a matter of fact, blacks celebrate the 4th of July more ardently than many other ethnic groups in the United States. Even white males, who are actually the true benefactors of the holiday, don’t celebrate as hard as African Americans. In reality, most people, black or white, don’t even know the purpose of the holiday.
During the summer of 1776, the American colonies decided they were going to separate from the British Empire. Their main complaint: taxation without representation. They felt used and exploited by the British. Those American gentlemen felt so strongly that they compared their plight to the African slaves they oppressed.
After signing the Declaration of Independence, this new country had a Revolutionary War with the greatest empire in the world at the time. With the help of France, an enemy of the colonies a mere 15 years prior, America won the war.
Concurrently, blacks in America were reduced to chattel slavery by some of our nation’s founding fathers even as they professed “all men are created equal”. From 1776 to 1865 blacks were denied civil rights like freedom of speech and, in many places, they weren’t even allowed reading. Voting, which is the cornerstone of any democracy, was completely off-limits for blacks.
Although the first person to die in the American Revolutionary War was a black man (Crispus Attucks) and even though African Americans fought in the war on both sides, very few slaves were for their service. (The majority of the slaves remained enslaved for another 89 years).
Depending on where one resides in the country, African American Emancipation Day is recognized on a different day. Most associate June 19th or Juneteenth as Emancipation day, the day that word slavery had ended made it down to Galveston, Texas.
Unfortunately many African Americans, as well as almost every other ethnic group, hardly recognize this holiday. Ironically, black people were not freed in 1776 but rather 1865 as a byproduct of the Civil War.
This war was fought because southern slaveholding whites felt it was their right to own other human beings as property. It would be difficult to find historically oppressed people celebrating, with great zeal, a holiday reserved for their oppressors anywhere in the world. That’s like a Jewish person celebrating Hitler’s Birthday or Black South Africans celebrating the inhumanity of apartheid. We have come to accept the association of freedom in this country with the 4th of July even though history shows us otherwise. It is imperative that we as people remember where we have come from and what it took to get where we are. If we don’t know – no one will – and there are people who are dying for us to forget.
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