The 4th of July is finally here! Today in America, the sounds of laughter entangled with music and good times will be heard all around. The air will be engulfed with the comforting smells of bar-be-que and mosquito repellant. Backyards and parks will be overflowing with family and friends gathered together for a fun filled day. Many will be adorned wearing their best Red, White, & Blue ensembles! The Stars and Stripes will be waving proudly throughout the day, and bright colors from fireworks will illuminate the night sky. Patriotic songs will be sung during parades and battles of the Revolutionary War will be reenacted.
Many know that July 4th is a day Americans celebrate this countries Independence from England in 1776. I can remember teaching my students about what led to the American Revolution. Leading up to this point, we read about the Early European Explorers. We learned that these explorers set out for God, Gold, & Glory. (They added God to make themselves feel better in their quest for land and global domination by any means necessary, but I digress.)
When the chapters discussing the Revolutionary War came up, I was Mrs. Proud to be an American. The pride I felt in explaining how these colonists and our fore-fathers bravely came together to fight and die for this nation was sincere and honest. As a proud African American, I included how Crispus Attucks, also an African American, was the first to die in a shoot-out that started the Revolutionary War. Wait, why is his death celebrated again? A shoot-out? Was this foreshadowing of the plight of the African American man in years to come???
Anyway, I remember reading along with my students about how the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. These intelligent, successful, and respected men each represented one of the 13 Colonies. They came together to draft ideas of what they believed America needed to be founded on in order to be Great. This document would let England and the World know why they believed America should be independent. The members gave ideas to be discussed for inclusion in the draft. The ideas would be included if they were agreed upon. Thomas Jefferson requested that slaves be given their freedom, since they had written that “all men were created equal”, but the southern states would not agree to this. They argued that removing slavery would bring a downfall to the south’s economy, so slavery remained even though “all men were created equal” remained in the draft.
Oh yeah, that’s right. Slaves weren’t seen as “men”. Slaves were property to their master…like an animal or farming equipment. Slave owners and southern representatives couldn’t have their “billion-dollar industries” go under, so slavery had to continue. These southern powers were also motivated by “Gold” and “Glory”.
As we continued to read, I tried to think back to when I learned about this in school. Either I didn’t pay attention to this part, or this part of the lesson was not focused on by my teachers or district; similar to how the district I work for chooses not to place a strong focus on slavery in America. It suddenly dawned on me, that America was never supposed to be Great for ME. These men were gathered to discuss what they believed would make America Great, but I was to be excluded from that. I was never supposed to be a college graduate or a teacher or free. My ancestors were stolen from Africa and brought to America with the intent of only being slaves who would eventually produce more slaves. The life I now live, was not supposed to be. I was meant to be property and learn that God had created me for slavery. Remember, God was used to justify the wrong doings of the powerful…the wealthy…the masters. God, Gold, & Glory right???
So now that July 4th is here, a series of questions haunts my mind starting with, “Why am I celebrating July 4?” America was made free. I wasn’t seen as an equal, American, or someone that could benefit from her greatness. I also wasn’t free. So does it make sense for me to celebrate the 4th? The English that live in America don’t celebrate the 4th of July because it’s not their holiday. It’s a reminder of a war that their country lost and wouldn’t they be making a mockery of themselves if they did celebrate? If the descendants of slaves celebrate this day, is it then a reminder that “Yes you helped build this Great country, but you were not meant to be Great in this country”. Should this knowledge be overlooked, since African American’s are “free” now? Maybe, like so many other holidays, I can use the art of ignoring its true origin and and make the 4th be about having a good time with family and friends?
Why do you celebrate the 4th of July?
“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.”
Featured Image: The Bronx Chronicle