Posted by: morgan1965 | July 4, 2012

Independence Day: A Journey to Freedom

The Fourth of July (July 4, 2012) marks the annual celebration of our nation’s independence (Independence Day). This nation, U. S. America, has been built on a foundation of certain democratic principles. One valuable principle is the fact that we practice freedom of religion in the midst of many religions and denominations that have emerged. America is a pluralistic nation whose population is comprised of people from the many nations of the world. To be sure, we enjoy a variety of freedoms. We have freedom of speech. Nevertheless, we are not a perfect nation, but America has made significant progress since the Day of Independence. 

America was built in part on the backs of Negro slaves, who toiled without the benefit of any remuneration. My grandfather, Alexander Light [Lyght] was a slave on a farm near Cambridge, Maryland. Subsequently, he obtained his freedom. America fought a civil war over slavery and other economic issues. The end of slavery ushered in legal segregation which did not end until the 1950’ and 1960’s. 

African Americans have fought in every war that this nation has been involved in, including the War for Independence. The U.S. Army was not desegregated until World War II. The first black Marines, however, were not recruited until 1942. President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the order authorizing African Americans to enter the Marine Corp. 

These American men were not permitted to go to white training facilities. More than 19,000 men received basic training at segregated Montford Point in North Carolina between 1942 and 1949. Many of these marines were held out of combat by Marine officers who considered African Americans unfit for combat duty. This was done in spite of the fact that America was at war with Germany and Japan. There are only about 420 Montford Point Marines living today. 

Finally, on June 27, 2012 the Congress presented the Montford Point Marines with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor the government bestows on a citizen. This was a fitting tribute. 

In 2006, Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the Tuskeegee Airmen. These airmen were African American pilots who fought in World War II. 

It is interesting to note that this medal was first presented in 1776 to George Washington by the Continental Congress. Some other recipients of the medal were Ulysses Grant, Thomas Edison, Robert Frost and Joe Lewis. 

On June 6, 1963 in a nationally televised address, President John F. Kennedy urged America to take action toward guaranteeing equal treatment of every American regardless of race. He subsequently proposed that that Congress consider civil rights legislation that would address voting rights, school desegregation, public accommodations, nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs and other areas of concern. 

Although Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963, Congress finally passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill into law on July 2, 1964, forty-eight years ago. This law outlawed segregation in businesses such as theaters, restaurants, and hotels. It ended segregation in public places such as swimming pools, libraries, and public schools. It banned discriminatory practices in the employment arena. 

The landscape in America has changed since the days when the Declaration of Independence was signed. But, “we have miles to go before we sleep.”

 In the meantime, consider the words of the national Negro hymn, “Lift Every Voice and Sing:” 

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring,

Ring with the harmonies of liberty;

Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,

Let us march on till victory is won. [The UM Hymnal, #519]

So today, as we ponder our past and look to the future with hope, we give our thanks to the many men and women who have served in the nation’s military, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice.

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