Independence Day has only been a paid federal holiday since 1938 (starting in 1870, it was an unpaid holiday for federal employees) though it seems as if the 4th of July has been around forever, specially since there were Americans that did celebrate the day back in the late 1700s and 1800s with gunfire, artillery salutes, dinners, music programs, parades, and even fireworks. Yes, you read that right. Fireworks in 1777!
Of the original 13 colonies, only 12 of them adopted the Lee Resolution for Independence on 2 July, 1776 (New York abstained from the vote). On 3 July 1776, the Declaration was revised until on the 4th, when it was officially adopted and then was voted into favor by 9 of the 13 colonies (New York once again did not vote, while South Carolina and Pennsylvania voted against the Declaration).
The famous words of Richard Henry Lee (Virginia) are as follows: “Resolved. That these United Colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and independent States, that they are absolved of all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
Many non-Whites feel that Independence Day is not one for those who weren’t ‘lucky’ enough to be born a Caucasian in Amerikkka. I daresay that I feel the same. Here is part of the 1852 address made by Frederick Douglass in Rochester, NY, regarding that day most Americans hold so dear:
What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.
How about on ‘this very day’?
Simon Moya-Smith had this to proclaim regarding Native Americans and Independence Day:
“Any holiday that would refer to my people in such a repugnant, racist manner is certainly not worth celebrating. [July Fourth] is a day we celebrate our resiliency, our culture, our languages, our children and we mourn the millions – literally millions – of indigenous people who have died as a consequence of American Imperialism.”