Nothing says the 4th of July like the smell of burgers on the grill, the donning of red, white, and blue, and the magical displays of fireworks. Annually millions of Americans and non-citizens who treasure freedom come together around picnics, parades, concerts, and other events to celebrate the anniversary of our nation’s independence from Great Britain, our mother nation.
Before I go any further, I want to make a disclamer. I am a black woman. I was born and raised in America. Politically, I consider myself to be a moderate, containing neither all liberal or conservative viewpoints, but rather meshing what I consider the best of both to shape my own political perspectives. Even though I don’t always like my country’s policies or its politicians, I love my country, period. I have traveled a few times outside of this country of ours’, and I can personally say that just as I am always eager to explore foreign lands, I always enthusiastically anticipate returning home. There is just no place like America, this land I love.
Now, that I have gotten that out of the way, let’s get back to the subject of the 4th of July, a celebration of independence. Here, some historical context is in order.
Prior to 1776, there was strife between the 13 Colonies and Great Britain. This led to a political revolution which ultimately was the fuel for the start of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1784). In June of 1776, agents of the 13 Colonies declared their independence from British rule. This declaration led to the birth of The United States of America. What this post seeks to point out is the deliverance of this nation, did not deliver or free all men. One nation under God had not yet been realized.
Let Freedom Ring?
While it’s important to celebrate the sovereignty of our nation and all the privileges that we enjoy because of it, it’s also equally important to recognize that the colonists weren’t the only people seeking independence during this time period. Many of the Africans who were forcefully and brutally taken from Africa and who endured the inhumane transatlantic voyage to the New World were also seeking independence from the European Colonists, their Masters. However, as history would tell it, “legal” freedom would not come for more than a hundred years and would be resisted even after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, changing the legal status of more than 3 million enslaved Africans from slave to “free.”
Even after the drying of the ink on the Emancipation Proclamation, freedom trickled in, in drops and drips and very much depended on where Blacks lived. For example, it wasn’t until 1864 that Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri abolished slavery. Other States like Tennessee didn’t abolish slavery until 1865.
Enslaved Africans who fought in the American Revolutionary War for both the King of Britain’s royal army or the 13 Colonists hoped their participation would be paid for with freedom. “It was not that they were pro-British; first and foremost, they were pro-Black; prepared to support the side that held out the greatest hope for them to improve their life.” However, little did they know, they, nor their children, or their children’s children would reaped the benefits of their sacrifice for years to come.
A Nation Influx
It has been said, “While the American Revolutionary War created our nation, it is the American Civil War (1861-1865) that determined the kind of nation we would be.” This is true to some degree. However, I would argue that it was the subsequent struggles of the Civil Rights Era and those of our modern day that continue to shape the nation we hope to leave for future generations. We have more work to do; more independence and freedom to be gained if we as a nation are to live our creed.
Happy Birthday America.