Monday, July 4, 2011

The Meaning of the Fourth of July Now

The Root
What would Frederick Douglass have to say about being black and American today?
By: Jack White Posted: July 3, 2010 at 11:47 PM

This essay from our archives is every bit as relevant today as it was when we first published it in 2010.
What, to a black American in the age of Barack Obama, is the Fourth of July? I answer: the day that reveals to him, more than any other, how much America owes to blacks and their struggle for freedom. If it hadn't been for people like Frederick Douglass, this would not be a country worth living in. The lofty ideals of the Founding Fathers would have been no more than stirring but empty rhetoric.
I know that such sentiments go against the grain on a holiday dedicated to ritualized celebrations of the Declaration of Independence. But let's not kid ourselves. That stuff about all men being created equal was not meant to apply to people like us. If it had been, Douglass would never have had to ask the electrifying question in the famous speech he delivered in 1852: "What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?" If the founders had really meant what they said, there would not have been any slaves.

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