4th Of July: Whose Independence Is It?

In 1775, thirteen British colonies began fighting for freedom from Britain in the American Revolutionary War, leading to the creation of the Declaration of Independence that has made the Fourth of July so popular. Emerging on July 4th, 1776, this notorious document is the root of America’s hypocrisy. Thomas Jefferson himself, known as one of the popular signers of the declaration alongside John Hancock, penned his signature to this affirmation of independence, but what kind of act of nobility is this when Jefferson had slaves himself? How can a man stand so firmly behind the infamous words, “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,” but falter so uniformly to the support of slavery? As a young politician, he did claim to encourage the prohibition of slavery in the colonies, yet he did nothing to free the ones living on his own property. The fact that he died exactly fifty years after the first Independence Day, on July 4th, 1826, is nothing short of irony in the face of this hypocrisy.

So let us examine the clauses in the above-mentioned quote. For one, I see nothing self-evident in granting freedom to a population that had nothing to do with the wealth and status of America. America was built on the backs of slaves. I see nothing noble in the year 1776 because over a hundred and fifty years prior, in the year of 1619 to be exact, the first American slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia. These 20 slaves would be the first of over 40 million to forcefully inhabit what would become the United States of America–a country whose name doesn’t even own up to its claims. And equality? The first time I flipped through the three pages of African American reference that I found in an “American history” book in middle school, I learned that slaves were not fully granted freedom until 1865, and even then they were not considered equal. I would praise the toes of any person who could explain how Blacks were included in the phrase “all Men are created equal” when it was nearly impossible to find a White person who addressed African Americans as anything other than “boy” or other derogatory names. Before Abraham Lincoln even thought about writing the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery was still shackling the minds and handcuffing the spirits of Blacks across the country.

So maybe, then, Independence Day should be reconsidered for African Americans. The Emancipation Proclamation was announced on January 1st, 1863, and on January 31st, 1865, the thirteenth amendment of the United States Constitution would reinforce the abolition of slavery. Yet it took almost a year for three-fourths of the 36 states to ratify the constitution. Mississippi, home to the murder of Emmett Till in 1955, didn’t ratify the amendment until 1995! Georgia, the final state needed to pass the amendment, ratified it on December 6th of 1865. This perhaps could be the proper Independence Day for African Americans, one that would hold up to the famous clause in the declaration. Yet still, African Americans found themselves not pursuing but fighting for the life, liberty, and happiness that White America had achieved in 1776.

The reconstruction era, noble in idea but faulty in execution, spanned from 1865 to 1877. It attempted to reverse the effects of slavery by instituting schools, living areas, and medical care for the freedmen. Yet sharecropping became a frequent way of living. Grandfather clauses and Black Codes restricted the lifestyles of African Americans, followed by Jim Crow laws that sprouted in the 1890s. Court cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson only reinforced the concept of segregation, a definite negation of the concept of equality as stated in the constitution. “Separate but equal” shouldn’t even have been the phrase because Black schools and neighborhoods were never as developed as those of Whites.

This injustice continued straight into the 20th century, whose problem would be the color line as so wisely stated by W.E.B. Du Bois. The civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s would reinforce African America’s belief in true equality and opportunities in this country, where “Land of the Free” can honestly be voiced when singing the national anthem.

Evidently, the Fourth of July has represented nothing except the independence of White Colonial America. Even throughout the centuries following the arrival of the Declaration of Independence, African Americans still had to experience acts of injustice, inhumanity, and inequality. With so much history still left unmentioned, my hope is that this article will make everyone think before they spark fireworks and bite into hot dogs on the year’s most popular American summer day. Every time I look at the American Flag, I wonder who those colors belong to. The red, perhaps the blood of every whip-lashed slave; the white, reminiscent of the cotton that built the backbone of this country; the blue, the color of waters that harbor the spirits of millions of noble slaves. I don’t know when the true Independence Day should be, but I know that I cannot properly celebrate a national holiday when it took so long for the entire nation to actually be a part of it.

“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.” –Frederick Douglass, Independence Day Speech in Rochester, 1841.


  1. Shawn says:

    Very well written, although I wish you had mentioned Juneteenth…but kudos either way. Keep it up!

  2. Anonymous says:

    u know mi always question, how u know dem ting de…but after reading it i must say “u leave me thinking”. but keep up the good work..U TALENTED BAD!!!!!!!bbbbaaabbiiieee. i’m going to hire u to be my spokesperson

  3. Anonymous says:

    Its same way the Hebrews were in bondage under Pharoah…through hardhsip comes glory…as history repeats itself…its evident that we are God’s chosen people…we soon see the promised land.

    yes roz…luving it…inform the people, knowledge is power!!!

  4. Raz says:

    How could i not leve a coment here? Her facts are relevant and truthful and they seriously made me think about the true meaning behind this holiday. Its nice to see more of our young folks stepping up to the plate and speaking out on the injustices in this country today. I can only hope that those who read this blog get a real eye opener. Nice job girl.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Proud of you baby Girl
    keep doing your thing, keep finding the noteable research, people are eventually go take head

  6. Anonymous says:

    Very well written. I do not doubt its accuracy. Such is the past of this country. There are few who acknowledge the truth, those who ignore it, and many who blindly celebrate. Thank you for opening my eyes to this. Well done.


  7. Anonymous says:

    I luuuuuuuuuuuuv this. I cant celebrate it either..this was very well written roz .. meaningful and an easy read! o so talented are thee!

    <3 Fritsle

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