What Does The 4th of July Mean To Blacks in America?
In the 240 + years of this country since the signing of The Declaration of Independence, Blacks in America are still unaware of what this independence truly means. As an educated Black Man in today’s society this draws a parallel between what I learned in school vs the reality in which Black Americans actually lived through during that time. Let’s analyze the ideals that led many Blacks in America to honor the 4th of July as their own.
Prior to the Civil War, Lincoln’s presidential campaigns included a Republican anti slavery platform that appealed to many enslaved Blacks in the southern/northern states. Southern states disagreed and began to part ways with the Union. By 1861 South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Texas had broken ties with the Union. Those departed states became known as the Confederate States of America.
Now Lincoln made clear his duty was to protect the Union and not end slavery or the Fugitive Slave Law. At first, slaves were not allowed to fight alongside white slave masters and it was illegal for slaves to join the armed forces.
“By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of the war—30,000 of infection or disease”(National Archives 2017) The civil war represented the greatest loss amongst black life in war time. It also represented the manipulation of Lincoln and his cabinet to preserve the Union from the confederates in the south at the expense of black slave labor. This ultimatum came as “confederate states are to surrender by January 1, 1863, or their slaves would be freed”. This was a political move on the government to entrap the colonies that have broken away from the union under the leadership of Jefferson Davis.
July 4th vs June 19th
On July 4, 1776, The America’s proclaim their independence from Great Britain. This freed the 13 colonies from Britain rule but this did not free the slaves from the rule of the 13 colonies. July 4th represents the country’s independence but Blacks in America were still considered as property and 3/5ths of a human. Blacks were manipulated to fight alongside the British as they promised freedom and sovereignty for their loyalty.
So where does the Black American’s independence fall?
Contrary to popular belief, slaves were not “free” until June 19, 1865, two years after Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th amendment and 89 years after America’s independence from Britain! Because the limited access to communication, newspapers and the idea of ruling slaves for as long as local governments would allow, this message was not understood by slaves in Texas and the lower colonies until Major General Gordon Granger took this message to Galveston, Texas. The reality is, although America prides itself on equality and independence and it is engraved in our constitution, only 45 states observe June 19th as a State Holiday while July 4th is a Federal holiday celebrated by all 50 states. The failure for the United States and even our own people to recognize and demand what represents our freedom is why we must continue to educate our children and our communities.
What does true independence mean?
You are no longer dependent on or subject to any other people’s institutions, power or will and with this it becomes your prerogative to protect your POPULATION and your SOVEREIGNTY.
History does not forgive those who lose their way. Although our record is displayed in history it appears we have become comfortable with “their holiday”. Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas etc. that were instilled in us during the struggle for freedom which have created a white savior complex of hypocrisy in Blacks to this day. As we identify with THEIR holidays that honor European destruction and colonization throughout the world, some Blacks in America no longer care to associate or identity with history that represents who we are and where we come from. You often hear a person in defense of America’s sketchy history as “it’s in the past, we’ve come so far.”
The reality is that it isn’t in the past. The past is the predictor of the future. As we know the law of Karma, we must also respect the law of self-preservation and power. I personally struggled with the understanding of July 4th vs June 19th. Though many of us never learn the importance of June 19th in formal schooling, it must be up to us as Africans in America to introduce our children to the history that honors our struggle and triumph. As Malcolm X said “ You have to be very careful introducing the truth to the black man, who has never previously heard the truth about himself. The black brother is so brainwashed that he may reject the truth when he first hears it. You have to drop a little bit on him at a time, and wait a while to let that sink in before advancing to the next step”. As this was said in the 1960s, why it is still true in 2020? What in our psyche does not allow us to identify with our greatness?
Here at The Emphatic Truth, we aim to educate, inspire and build with millennials and young adults alike. Information is universal and is a part of everyday life. How you use information and intellect is directed by what you actively choose to engage yourself in. So though we bring information, we are also a people of passion and purpose, so we also bring you inspiration. Our hope is that we never lose sight of the struggle and victories Black Americans have endured and overcome. Our greatness must be celebrated with or without a state recognized holiday.
Less than 3 weeks ago we celebrated Juneteenth like never before as a black community and it's imperative we continue this momentum through conversation and education. It is our sole responsibility and duty as a people to uphold the legacy of our ancestors. Whether its #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd or #JusticeforBreyonnaTaylor these are not forgotten, they are not myths that aren't spoken of.
How to be productive during 4 of July?
1. Read /Listen to Frederick Douglas Speech from July 5th 1852 and discuss your reaction with others. Do you agree with Douglas's speech ? What stood out to you the most?
2. Have a conversation with your family, friends and anyone who's willing to listen around what progress we have made as a people since 1776 and what can we do better? What are you doing to add value to the black experience in a positive way?
3. In this new age of enlightenment, pride of heritage and nationality. I challenge you to : Create a plan of action with friends and family to recognize and celebrate Black-American history both domestically and abroad. There's more history than you will ever be taught in formal education. Do not rely on the same education system that segregated, created laws to systematically oppress you through limiting your experience in school to provide you any insightful information on yourself. Check out this black history calendar to get you started ! : http://blackhistorydaily.com/on%5Fthis%5Fday/july%5F4/index.html
In the age where information is power when used, don't cease to learn, acknowledg and celebrat your history. As the ancestor and Master teacher, Dr. Josef Ben Jochannan said, “The enemy never rewards its foe with a holiday, why don’t you take a day!?”