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Man Talk: Should Blacks celebrate the fourth of July?

By Andre Austin

I've debated for many years about whether I should or shouldn't publish my views on the fourth of July. Some misguided souls will misinterpret these thoughts as being unpatriotic. But they are not. It's only through time and the free exchange of ideas that understanding can properly manifest itself between different peoples and cultures. And now with the 21st century nearing I have a strong desire to get this so-called "holiday celebration" off of my chest.

Before I go into my denunciations of the fourth of July, allow be to go back in time to July 4, 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed and sent to England. It would be stupid of me if I talked about the fourth of July without quoting liberally from it texts.

Reading the texts of these great men is the only way to understanding them. The signers of the Declaration declared that "All men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpation's all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. He has made judges dependent on his will alone. For imposing taxes on us without our consent. Depriving us of the benefits of trial by jury.

We, therfore declare, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and Independent states. That they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown." In a nut shell that was what the declaration of Independence was all about in their words. But other scholars assert that the war of the American Revolution (along with the Civil War) really began in rivalry over the African slave-trade.

The Americans did not rebel principally because of taxes, but from the arrogance and conceit bred into them from slavery of the Blacks. Many people do not know in the original draft there was a paragraph that Thomas Jefferson intended to include in the list of grievances against the king. The deleted paragraph read:

"He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the person of a distant people (African people), who never offended him; captivating and caring them into slavery in another hemisphere to incur miserable death in their transportation."

This paragraph was omitted in the final document because they thought that the words would contaminate the glorious fabric of American liberty and government and those same words would of been not only an indictment against King George but also the "founding Fathers" themselves too. I know that these argument will bring about much controversy, but now let us continue and go back in time again six years earlier to an event in 1770 that led up to the amazing document written in 1776.

It's ironic to me that it was the action of the fugitive slave, Crispus Attucks that was the spark that ignited the Revolutionary war. The people of Boston were under economic and police oppression by King George III of England. There were soldiers everywhere. The economic torture started with a Sugar Act tax. Then came the Currency Act, forbidding them from printing their own paper money. Next, the Mutiny act, requiring them to provide for British troops stationed among them.

Then came the last straw with the Stamp act, requiring all subjects to purchase stamps for all legal documents like almanacs, pamphlets, deck of cards, newspapers, etc. Tension was boiling up and just waiting for something to explode. Then an incident broke out March 5, 1770 called the Boston Massacre where Crispus Attucks and others lost their lives-protesting police brutality.

Because Attucks was the first to die he is given credit for the spark that led to white people to fight and win their freedom from England. Court records affirm that Attucks inflamed the mob with chants and threw sticks at the police. For his disorderly conduct Attucks received two fatal shots to his chest, making himself a martyr.

John Adams a lawyer for the British troops at the time and later to become the second president of the United States made two contradictory statements concerning Crispus Attucks. The first statement Adams said:

"Not the battle of Lexington, or Bunker Hill nor the surrender of Cornwallis were more important events in American history than the battle of King street, March 5,1770."

The second statement John Adams made was both praise and slander to Attucks.

"To whose mad behavior (Attucks), in all probably the dreadful carnage of that night is chiefly to be ascribed."

In 1776 General George Washington exhorted his troops to "Remember its the fifth of March avenge your comrades". I find it strange that Washington would cheer blackman's efforts of Attucks and at the same time request in November of 1775 that Black people shouldn't not fight in the war because he felt that the idea of recruiting Black soldiers raised the fear of Slave revolts.

Washington change his mind only a month later when he found out what the British governor of Virginia done.when he thought that he could win the war with Black peoples support. Lord John Murray, the recently deposed British governor of Virginia issued a proclamation on November 7,1775. Murray said: "I do hereby...declare all indented servants free, that are able and willing to bear arms, they joining his Majesty's troops."

After hearing this thousands of slaves were now fighting for the King of England.

This proclamation raised the specter of a wholesale flight of slaves to the British, and caused Slave-Masters considerable fear of slave mutinies and massacres. In response to the British freeing the Blacks who would fight for then Washington reversed his decision and wrote, Colonel Henry Lee, December 20,1775 saying: "Success will depend on which side can arm the Negroes faster."

When I was in school I was never taught the facts just mentioned. I'm proud that Black people fought in the war that helped win America's independence but I feel real upset that Black people didn't get their indepedance. I knew that black people were in the war but I never knew we were at the forefront of this historic event. The schools gave me the impression we were kust there when it happened and not telling us that we were key players. Do I smell a conspiracy?

After soaking up all of this information on my own research I can't accept that freedom and equality was what the Revolution, the declaration of independence were really all about must conclude that out of all of our Federal holidays, besides labor day, this is the worst one to celebrate for African-Americans.

How can I in my right, sane brain take part in a holiday that my ancestors did not benefit from? July 4,1776 was a day that white America declared it was free & independent from Great Britain. The war lasted from 1775 until 1783 when the final peace treaty was signed in Paris. Now, the Blackman in America didn't get his freedom until 1865. Even though we helped fight in the Revolutionary war we as a people were nothing but the property and servants of others.

I can't imagine a slave jumping up and down and screaming with joy with his slave master celebrating the victory over England. If there were any celebrating they would have been rightfully labeled "house niggas". And the "field niggas" would of been those who fought on the British side. I've read many slave interviews and autobiography books and I have yet to come across a statement saying slaves celebrated the fourth of July.

Just because we were set free in 1865 doesn't mean we should retroactively swipe incidents in the past clean. I can only celebrate positive events from 1865 onward. But I also could appreciate positive events prior to 1865 that had a good impact on the Black community. The U.S being free from England meant nothing for the slaves because the Revolutionary veterans didn't prohibit the buying and selling of slaves in their newly written constitution.

If my words haven't persuaded you to the points of my analysis I've been trying to make perhaps a former slave may convince you of what I'm talking about. On July 5, 1852 fugitive slave Frederick Douglas gave a speech entitled "What to the slave is the fourth of July? Here are some brief excerpts of his speech:

"This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice 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 cruelly 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 sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, 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 these United States, at this very hour"

Do I dare or need to add any more?

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