What does the 4th of July mean to Africans in the US?

The declaration of independence was signed on July 4th 1776, marking America’s independence from Britain. However, the Blackman in America did not get his freedom until 1865 when slavery was abolished.

For most Americans, the fourth of July is a day to take some time off work, enjoy some family time and the great spectacle of the annual fireworks. More importantly it is a time for many to reflect on the long road towards developing a freer state and a tolerant community. But what does it mean for the members of the Black Society?

On July 5 1852, Frederick Douglas gave a speech in Rochester, New York, entitled: What to the slave is the fourth of July? He reminded listeners that when the declaration of independence was signed, many Africans were still slaves. “This fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. 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 is a constant victim…”

2015 will mark one of the most disheartening years for Africans in the US. The country has played host to hundreds of killings of unarmed black people by the police, mass killings of innocent black people in places of worship, and burning down of churches built by Africans in different parts of the United States. At least 136 individuals have been killed by US police within the first half of 2015, a vast majority of them being African Americans and Latinos.

In response to the treatment of black people in the United States, Senegalese recording artiste, Akon said: “America was never made for blacks”. Several celebrities of African heritage have made similar statements to this in recent times, both on social media and in TV interviews. One of which is Chris Rock. In June 2013, the comedian posted on twitter: “Happy white peoples Independence Day, the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed the fireworks.”

However, some black Americans find reason to joyfully celebrate the holiday. Stacy Swimp, In a Washington’s Time’s op-ed noted that at least 5000 black men fought for the Continental Army against the British, they believed that freedom from the British would result in freedom for slavery.

Swimp also mentioned that although slaves weren’t free at the time of the declaration, it is as a result of the document that every American under the U.S. Constitution is equally guaranteed individual freedom. “What, to Black Americans is the 4th of July?” He writes, “Everything”.

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