On Thursday of last week, this nation celebrated its 243rd year of independence from British rule. This independence was the culmination of an 8-year war, fought on American soil, known as the American Revolution. It was during the American Revolution that the Constitution of the United States was established. The articles of the Constitution would serve as the foundation of how this new autonomous country interpreted the concepts of freedom and liberty, among other things. This national holiday, commonly known as the 4th of July, has been marked with parades, flags, baseball games, family gatherings, fireworks, and the unique aroma of backyard barbeques.
Though freedom from the British was declared on July 4, 1776, one-fifth of the American population had little to celebrate because of the color of their skin. Enslaved Africans had been sold in American colonies since at least 1619. By the year of independence, African-American slaves comprised about 20% of the population of the 13 mainland colonies. The forced labor of the enslaved persons aided in establishing the wealth of this new, sovereign land. So as a descendent of those Africans, on whose back this nation was built, I don’t find July 4th particularly celebratory. The Emancipation Proclamation wouldn’t be signed, and go into effect, for another 78 years. Even that executive order wasn’t completely liberating. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 — a day known as Juneteenth — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, that the enslaved persons were truly free.
If you ask people why they celebrate July 4th, many will say they do it to honor the sacrifices of those who liberated the colonies from the British. Well, I celebrate Juneteenth because it allows me to honor the struggles and sacrifices of my fore parents, whose skin was kissed by the sun, much like my own.
I am Joe Mitchell, and this is my perspective.