When we think of Independence Day, most of us think of a day off, others of us think of fireworks, bbqs, family and friends. Few of us really stop to consider the implications of the holiday.
Facts are that on July 4th, 1776, while the colonies of our country were celebrating Independence from the British, people were still slaves, many of whom also fought for this nations freedom and would earn for themselves none. It would be almost a century later when the unfair and inhumane practice of chattel slavery would be abolished.
Major voices for the fight for total freedom would rise, one of those would be of the former slave turned abolitionist Frederick Douglass. His speech on "The Meaning of the 4th of July to the Negro" remains to this day a powerful reminder and a call to action that, as a free nation, we should seek the total freedom of all who set foot here. Whether it was the slaves of this nation's founding years or refugees fleeing oppression and violence today. It is a call for this nation to make peace with the violence and injustice of its own past and to live up to the high ideals and content of its most time honored creeds and principles in the present for a better, more free future.
One of my favorite quotes from the 5 minute long speech goes as follows:
"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 sound 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 the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour."
So, in honor of the 4th of July, here is the speech read in its entirety, by James Earl Jones. Happy Independence Day.