Why We Celebrate Fourth of July

United States Colored Troops | The image shows a black man in a United States uniform, obviously wounded in defense of his country, and there is a caption in the original that reads, “and not this man?” > Image Credit: http://www.civilwar.org

All across America, Black Americans will do as all other races and cultures do on July 4. That is, we will have cookouts at home, picnics in the park, and planned vacations at resorts, beaches and in the homes of close friends and relatives. But the similarities with others end with the various festivities, because our reasons for celebrating this day are quite different. We have no reason to memorialize a day recognized as the beginning of the fight for independence because that independence was not extended to our ancestors. We have no compelling desire to admire George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. We smirk at Patrick Henry’s rallying call, “Give me liberty or give me death,” because we recognize the hypocrisy of those words coming from the mouth of slave owners. Why should we pay deference to the founding fathers?

These men are heroes to the majority of white Americans but villains to Blacks. After all they accepted slavery as legitimate when they failed to do no more than outlaw the international slave trade in 1808, but never condemned slavery or domestic slave trade within the borders of this country. Our heroes are the very men and women who fought against the institution of slavery. Instead of Patrick Henry, we pay homage to David Walker who urged his people to pick up arms and end the oppressor’s tyrannical subjugation of them. Instead of the warrior George Washington, we exalt the warrior Nat Turner, who actually took up arms against evil and fought a real battle for independence. Instead of Martha Washington and Dolly Madison, we respect Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. As Black Americans, we admire and pay deference to Frederick Douglass who refused to be a slave and took his freedom. Abraham Lincoln should not be designated as the great emancipator but as the president who fought a war to save the union. If there is a need for a great emancipator (which I don’t believe is necessary) then that honor should be bestowed on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who gave his life fighting for absolute freedom and equality for his people. Equality of the races was never given consideration by Lincoln. He made it quite clear that this country was for white people only.

So as my family and I pack up to go spend the holiday with close friends, I will explain to my grandson why we are celebrating, because it is time for Black America to tell their history their way. And that is what I plan to do with friends and family from now on.

3 thoughts on “Why We Celebrate Fourth of July

  1. William B Johnson

    No argument here Fred.The same truth applies to The Alamo. Travis, Davy Crockett , Bowie and others were nothing more than a bunch of blood thirsty opportunists who fought to ensure that Texas was a slave state where our African ancestors were bought and sold like cattle.

  2. Andrew P. Jackson (Sekou Molefi Baako

    Thank you for this well written narrative. Years ago, when I was introduced to Frederick Douglass’ 1852 4th of July Speech while taking a black history class, I altered my meaning of celebration by attending an annual 4-day outdoor African Arts Festival held in Brooklyn, NY and revitalizing my appreciation for my ancestry, culture and history. Like you, I share this speech and the understanding and significance of our history to the 4th of July with my community, friends and especially with our youth. Although many may say we need to get past this and celebrate as “Americans”, I still disagree for unfortunately, I do not believe America has earned that right yet. Lest, we never forget!

    Andrew P. Jackson (Sekou Molefi Baako)
    Executive Director, Queens Library’s Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center; Adjunct, York College (CUNY), Department of Social Sciences – Black Studies.

    1. Thank you Brother Sekou. It is imperative that we begin to tell our history our way. For too long we have dealt with their interpretation of history and it has done great damage to us as a people. We all must work together to turn that around. I am committed to writing from that perspective.

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