I know, a few days late; but a pretty interesting article from the History News Network:
Why Blacks Used to Celebrate July 5th By William Loren Katz
(Mr. Katz has been affiliated with New York University for more than twenty years and is the author of forty books on US history.)
This Independence Day falls on July fifth, and if the significance of that date were better known, it would trigger a strong reaction in the United States, particularly among people of color.
During the long night of slavery in the United States, free African Americans in the North discussed how to respond to a holiday that celebrated the independence of a country that held millions of their loved ones in chains. They came up with many creative solutions, some based on changing world events.
In the northern states African Americans gained their freedom in the years following the American Revolution. But it was a slow process in which enslaved people in New York for example, were not liberated until 1827, and in not in New Jersey until the next year.
What then to celebrate? On January 1, 1808 when the slave trade was abolished in the United States, Black New Yorkers, hoping to spur their own freedom along, met to hear a prominent black city minister, Rev. Peter Williams, denounce the rape of Africa, the tragedy of the slave trade and praise the heroic efforts of anti-slavery advocates in England and the U.S. The next year New York organized three spirited celebrations that featured speakers who marked the end of the slave trade.
When freedom became a reality in New York in 1827, the leading celebration was hosted by the African Zion Church, and it sang the virtues of outstanding abolitionists. In a stirrring address that was widely circulated, Black orator William Hamilton said, "This day we stand redeemed from a bitter thralldom."
Posted by ronn at July 8, 2004 08:14 PM