When it comes to July Fourth, the official birthday of the US, I’m all over the map. As people pay homage to the Founding Fathers, I’m reminded of the many slaves who sided with King George because he was offering freedom papers.
As Simon Schama explains in Rough Crossings, the royalists were no abolitionists. They wanted the colonists to face more enemies. Additionally, at the end of the war many former slaves, who gave their allegiance to the Union Jack, were returned to bondage. However, there was an ex-slave who fought for Mother England whose freedom contract was honored. He changed his name to British Freedom.
Then there is Frederick Douglass’ The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro. In the July 1852 speech, the great abolitionist wonders why American slaves should pay attention to the observance:
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.
Then there is the Battle of Vicksburg, which ended on July 4, 1863. When Confederate Army Lt. Gen. John Pemberton surrender to Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the rebel states were split on half. Grant’s success in the western theater eventually led to his appointment as General-in-Chief of the Union armies and the eventual defeat of the traitors.
Vicksburg fell on the Fourth, but popular imagination stays focused on a small town in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg. July 3, 1863 was the last day of fighting when Gen. George Pickett 15,000 Confederate troops were stopped from taking Cemetery Ridge. This bloodletting was the last time General Robert E. Lee was ever able to bring the fight to the Northern states.
The day is never done until there is some Louis Armstrong. Until his dying day he claimed to be born on July 4, 1900 (actually it was August 4, 1901). Taking the Fourth as his made sense. Why shouldn’t the man whose horn transformed American music not attach himself to the country’s birth?
So my Fourth is spent musing all of the above. Hopefully your day is just as exciting. If not, here is the voice and sound of the USA. He makes everything better.