There are a lot of folks who would have you and I believe that the 4th of July does not truly belong to black folks. While we understand the perspective—it’s not a complete perspective—it just isn’t. We love how Ronda Racha Penrice attacks this issue from a straight up historical and fact based position. She recently wrote this piece on Why the 4th truly does belong to all of us and we respect and salute her for it. Read on….
“The Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine,” Frederick Douglass said in his famous 1852 address “What to the slave is the 4th of July?”
More accurately, the celebration of the Fourth of July, of American freedom in particular, may have then belonged to white Americans but Douglass was mistaken in his assertion that the Fourth of July did not belong to African-Americans. The critical role African-Americans played in establishing the nation is not brought up enough.
There was a time, even during slavery, when it was hard to ignore the fact that Crispus Attucks, a fugitive slave, served as a key catalyst to the American Revolution. When British soldiers fired upon the colonists in 1770, in what is now immortalized as the “Boston Massacre,” Attucks was the first to die.
How ironic that a black man, once enslaved but defying the law that deemed him a slave to take his freedom, would become the martyr for freedom and equality to those who denied him the same dignity?
An estimated 5,000 African-Americans fought in the American Revolution so Frederick Douglass was not correct when he declared that “The Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine.” In fact, it’s this continued oversight of history that plagues us to this day. When Tea Party supporters and others intimate that African-Americans are somehow less American than others, they are dead wrong. It has been argued time and time again that African-Americans are, in many ways, more patriotic than other Americans.
Despite being held in bondage and suffering Jim Crow and other miscarriages of justices, African-Americans have never given up on the great promise of freedom captured in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. In fact, the greatness of leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. is that they dared to remind this nation that it was not living up to its potential.
In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, King, whose national monument will be unveiled on August 28, nearly 50 years after the historic 1963 March on Washington, spoke of the “bad check” America had given black Americans while also revealing the hope that African-Americans have generally held on to despite enduring the worst of times. “But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt,” he said. “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”
As with every war, including the ones currently being fought, African-Americans have served this nation nobly. So, when it comes to celebrating the Fourth of July, we have just as much right as any other American whose investment in this nation extends back to its very foundation.