Posted by: morgan1965 | July 4, 2009

The Fourth of July

What is the meaning of July Fourth?

From an historical perspective, the Fourth of July or Independence Day in the United States is an annual holiday that commemorates the formal adoption by the Continental Congress of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On the Fourth of July, we celebrate the birth of the United States.

When the holiday was first observed in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776, the Declaration was read aloud, city bells rang and the bands played. It was not until 1941 that Independence Day was declared a holiday. Now Independence Day is celebrated publicly with parades, fireworks displays and patriotic speeches.

If you were asked to make a patriotic speech on the Fourth, what would you say to the people? What would be the content of your speech?

Let us take a look back in history as we ponder this question. On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglas, an African American and a leading abolitionist, gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The event was held at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York where Douglass made his home. He told his audience, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” He posed a burning question to them: “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today.”

Frederick Douglas was an astute orator and he did not disappoint the audience on this occasion. Consider his words:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Do these words of Frederick Douglas, descriptive in his understanding of the American dilemma at that time, have any relevance to the American situation today?

Until all American people are free and in possession of their constitutional liberties, none of us are free in America. America is a great nation and we have made tremendous strides toward freedom for all people in America; nevertheless, we have much to accomplish in the arena of freedom, liberty, economic opportunity and justice for all people.

With this in mind, let us celebrate the Fourth of July with allegiance, gratitude and justice. We are indeed “one nation under God.”

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