Friday, July 04, 2008

A Note on "Independence" Day

First, I'll just point you (as so many do today) to Frederick Douglass's speech, "What, to the Slave, Is the Fourth of July?" ("abolition's rhetorical masterpiece") and this article that situates it in place and time.

Then, I'll just include these three lines from a paper that I wrote long ago, that sort of sum up my answer to Douglass's question.
For a time, in the fervor of revolution, African Americans thought the benefits of liberty and the rights of full citizenship might be extended to them... Instead, their very existence became a troubling testimony to the unfulfilled “truths” of the Declaration of Independence.... The American Revolution did have meaning for African Americans; it stood as an example of hypocrisy and ephemeral hope.


k8 said...

That speech rocks! I've used it in my courses - having students perform rhetorical analyses of it - and it is very effective.

On a similar note, did you see Eugene Robinson's op/ed column in the Washington Post today (available online at: about this same issue?

Giftie Etcetera said...

Not "...the unfulfilled “truths” of the Declaration of Independence...", elle, but the slowly fulfilled, the overdue freedoms, the work in progress.

On the 4th, I do not celebrate that America started to fight to be "free." I celebrate that the ideals of freedom became something worth fighting for, even as I, as a woman, would not have enjoyed those freedoms then. Even as my friends who were not land-owning, white males were left in the shadows.

I celebrate that you can write this post. I celebrate FOR YOU, and for all my American friends, at the potential of freedom. I hope for expansion of that freedom, even today.

In the interest of full disclosure, though, I've always resented the Founding Fathers title, even as I celebrate the 4th.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...