July 4th, one of the most awaited holidays for Americans. The day the country marks its independence, and the day that the skies light up in fireworks, streets are painted red, white and blue. The holiday is a celebration of history and the 'American dream'. But what does July 4 mean now - a world of prevailing racism, violence and deeply rooted discrimination?
The Fourth of July commemorates the day the United States gained independence from Great Britain in 1776. Two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.
What the Fourth of July means now
“The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” So said Frederick Douglass to a gathering of white abolitionists in New York on July 5, 1852. Seventy-six years and one day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Douglass found little to celebrate. Slavery existed mercilessly in the country, while the Fugitive Slave Law meant that Blacks in the North faced the terrifying possibility of being returned to bondage in the South.
Even though on paper, independence day is marked on July 4th, 1776, America is believed to not have its independence until June 19, 1865. That was the day that the last enslaved people gained their freedom after federal troops arrived in Texas to enforce the decree that all slaves be freed.
Since 1941, June 19th is celebrated as 'Juneteenth' - a milestone day that marked freedom - a freedom that was equal to all races.
Today, the Fourth of July and Juneteenth are celebrated equally, a celebration of liberation, autonomy, and freedom.