What significance should the 4th of July have to Americans of African descent? Notice, I didn’t use the term “African-Americans,” as I feel that term is inaccurate. Independence Day – independence for who? On July 4, 1776 most of my ancestors were still very much enslaved in America. So, whose independence would I be honoring by celebrating today? A celebration of this holiday would be a slap in the face to those ancestors whom I deeply honor and revere. A more accurate celebration would be in remembrance of the Emancipation Proclamation, and more specifically Juneteenth, since that was the date that the last slaves were freed from Galveston, Texas, Read more about that here. It is a sad reality that many of our people fail to celebrate the real independence of their ancestors, while barbecuing and celebrating the independence of their oppressors instead.
Frederick Douglass gave a speech entitled: “The Meaning of 4th of July for the Negro” at Rochester, New York on July 5, 1852. It is still very much relevant today. Read his speech in its entirety here.
An author named Ishakamusa Barashango (try pronouncing that!) wrote two volumes of a book that is highly recommended for all people of African descent:
These books break down the truth behind many of the holidays that we celebrate, often completely unaware of their true origins. To close, I will include a piece titled: “The 4th of You Lie” by Julianne Malveaux.
Too many mainstream historians have decried the tendency to point out hypocrisy in American history, to find every holiday and cause for celebration tainted. But the fact is that our nation is so far from its ideals that it is pathetic. And every holiday has some taint, some stain, because the ideals we celebrate as universal often only apply to some people. Historian Howard Zinn reminds us of this when he writes about America’s working class history. For the longest time the poor did not have the right to vote, a right that was restricted to white, male, property holders. Before the signs said “white” or “colored” they said “No Irish Need Apply”. These realties are swallowed by our idealism in celebrating freedom, justice and so-called equity.
Columbus did not discover America, and Columbus Day ought to be called Indigenous People’s Day. President Abe Lincoln was not a moralist who freed the slaves. He used African people as a pawn in a regional battle, and embraced the concept of unequal pay for those black soldiers who equally risked their lives in the Civil War. Thomas Jefferson, that great philosopher, was also a slaver, and so his declarations of freedom are contaminated by his hypocrisy. And perhaps the most poignant indictment of American history is Frederick Douglass’ stinging speech, “The meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro.” Douglass asks what liberty we are talking about when we talk about life, liberty and the pursuit
of happiness. He is fiery, angry, pained. A century after Douglass asked his questions, there is still a gulf between the way many Americans view history. Much of the gulf has to do with the history we celebrate
and the history we are silent about.
In Washington, D.C., malls, monuments and museums speak to our rich history. There is a museum for air and space, a monument to President Lincoln, and to President George Washington. There is a Holocaust Museum that details the history of oppression that happened on another shore, but there is no nod to the horrible legacy that slavery left in this country. If we can walk through simulated concentration camps to experience the horror of twentieth-century brutality, why can’t we walk through simulated plantations to experience the horror and blood on which our nation’s profits rest? (You have no idea.)
To walk through the nation’s malls and monuments is to understand the profundity of America’s lie and the resistance that some people feel to exploring dimensions of the lie. How can a textbook have ”too
much” multicultural content? How can we resist “too much” truth? The cliché says that to know history is to avoid repeating it, yet when we experience church burnings, political setbacks, and racist beatings of African American “suspects” there is a sense of déjà vu.
The Fourth of July is supposed to be Independence Day. Too many people are unwittingly using it to celebrate their independence from, and ignorance of, our sordid past. It is not the Fourth of July, but the “Fourth of You Lie”, the institutionalization of the lies that are the foundation of this tainted nation. So as some parade and barbecue, others simmer at the irony of official lies that some people call history. Those who lived the part that has been obliterated by allegations of “too much” multiculturalism know American history as self-serving fiction.
Happy 4th of U-Lie!