This year the Fourth of July falls on Sunday, so the Wayne Township Trustee Office will be closed on Monday, the 5th for the holiday. Known as American Independence Day it’s a celebration of the day our nation’s founders decided to break free from being colonies of Great Britain. “On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, setting the thirteen colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation,” (US Census Bureau). “This most American of holidays is marked with typical festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues across the country.”
Here in Indiana many people travel to the lake to see fireworks reflecting off the waters. Others celebrate in one of our great city parks, at the ball diamond, or in their own backyard. Wherever it happens, it’s a relaxing and festive day when we dress in our red, white, and blue and enjoy a day off work in the warm summer weather.
A different way of celebrating Independence Day is held at many parks especially across the New England states. There people hold public readings of a great speech by Frederick Douglass called “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” These readings are followed by community discussions about the speech.
Douglass originally gave this speech in Rochester, New York, on July 5, 1852, and this year marks its 169th anniversary. In 1852, slavery was still legal in large parts of the United States, and Frederick Douglass, an African American, an abolitionist, and a great orator had been asked to give a speech about Independence Day. It was not lost on him that, for his people, the Fourth of July did not carry the same meaning as it did for the white people of this nation. For many African Americans freedom from slavery would not come for another decade and with the fighting of a great Civil War.
As some people say, ‘freedom isn’t free’ and in his speech Douglass recognized the price and the courage it took in 1776 for the founders to go after freedom for their country. He congratulated those Americans on their hard-won independence, “The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history-the very ringbolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.” But Douglass said, too, that it would take continual struggle and cost before all Americans found true freedom through equality.
In June of this year, Juneteenth, celebrating the day the last of the slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned they’d been freed some two and a half years earlier by the Emancipation Proclamation, was made an official federal holiday. “For decades, activists and congress members (led by many African Americans) proposed legislation, advocated for, and built support for state and national observances. Spurred on by the advocates and the Congressional Black Caucus, on June 15, 2021, the Senate unanimously passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday; it subsequently passed through the House of Representatives by a 415–14 vote on June 16.” President Joe Biden signed the bill on June 17, 2021, making Juneteenth the eleventh American federal holiday and the first to obtain legal observance as a federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was designated in 1983.
So, we will now get be able to doubly celebrate the freedoms we enjoy in our great United States. Here’s hoping you caught some of the Juneteenth celebrations and wishing you a Happy Fourth of July.