What Does July 4th Represent?
July 4th does not hold the same meaning to all Americans. While many revel in the joys of summer and an extra day off work, the roots and deeper meanings of this historic day vary among many groups across America. During a brief lunchtime discussion, the opinions of Black Americans regarding the holiday were discussed. One individual stated, “The holiday represents our historical suffering.” Another said, “They (the government) should change the name to Fireworks Day or something. 4th of July never meant independence to black people”. The conversation was enlightening as the views stretched beyond the cookouts and flag-waving. It’s understandable given the long and dark history in which this country was founded and built. After the discussion, more questions remained. What is the real meaning of the holiday? Do other ethnic groups view Independence Day differently? Do opposing opinions demonstrate a loss of unity as a nation or further division?
First, what does this holiday truly represent? The answer is more historical and procedural than one might realize. During the colonial era, with the dispute between the colonies and Great Britain, the Continental Congress voted for secession and declared independence. The vote was not unanimous as Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted against the declaration while New York abstained. Once the measure was passed, the formal document announcing to the world that the American Colonies declare independence was written and unanimously approved on July 2nd, 1776. In reality, that is all Independence Day meant. We celebrate the holiday on the 4th since news traveled much slower those days than now, as many heard news of the declaration about two days later. From this point, the colonies began the long, cumbersome, and sometimes questionable task of self-governance. Many historians and scholars examine the evolution of the holiday’s meaning as a source of freedom, patriotism, and democracy, which came much later through political exploitation and primarily white public opinions. But what of equality? As Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jill Lepore discussed in an interview…