Log in Subscribe

Happy Fourth of July


New York, NY… July is a month that symbolizes summer, ambition, and contentment. July's birthstone is the ruby, which represents satisfaction and happiness. Its birth flowers are the larkspur or the water lily, which have different meanings depending on their colors. The zodiac signs for July are Cancer and Leo, which are associated with emotions, creativity, and leadership. 

One of America’s most important and celebrated holidays falls on the fourth day of July. Also called Independence Day, the Fourth of July commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared the original colonies to be free from British rule. There are barbeques, beach parties, and fireworks exploding all over the country in celebration.  Savvy consumers can save on everything from home appliances to summer clothing to automobiles during Fourth of July door-busting sales, which usually last for weeks. Politicians running for re-election make speeches touting their accomplishments, trying to convince people to give them another term of office. First-time candidates make speeches trying to convince people to vote for them as they offer something better than the current office holder. 

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a speech at the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, New York, celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  It was biting oratory in which Douglass told his audience, "This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice; I must mourn." And he asked them, "Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?" Standing before the assembly, he asked another question:

 “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 cruelty 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 sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, 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 the United States, at this very hour.”

The major theme of the speech was how America was not living up to its proclaimed beliefs. Douglass noted how Americans are proud of their country and their religion and how they rejoice in the name of freedom and liberty and yet, they do not offer those things to millions of their country's residents.

On July 5, 2020 -- the 168th anniversary of that speech --  a statue of Frederick Douglass that had been erected in Rochester, New York in 2018, was torn down. The statue was found at the brink of the Genesee River gorge about fifty feet from its pedestal with damage to the base and a finger. Carvin Eison, SUNY Brockport professor, filmmaker, and head of the organization responsible for the memorial speculated that it was vandalized in response to the removal of Confederate monuments in the wake of the George Floyd protests. 

In October 2022, a bronze statue of Frederick Douglass was unveiled by the Rochester Community Media Center at the Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport.  

The African Methodist Episcopal Zion denomination played a vital role in abolitionist and Civil Rights Movements. James Varick, the founder and first Bishop of the A.M.E. Zion Church was a fierce opponent of slavery and openly supported its abolition. He often preached sermons on this subject and fought for equal rights for African Americans, the most notable being the “Sermon of Thanksgiving on the Occasion of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade,” on January 1, 1808.  In 1821, James Varick and other Black New York City leaders petitioned the New York State Constitutional Convention to grant Blacks the right to vote. Six years later Varick helped establish Freedom’s Journal, the first Black newspaper in the United States. www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS4415

On July 4, 1827, James Varick and his congregation celebrated victory when New York finally enacted the final emancipation of Negro slaves.  Two weeks after the celebration, on July 22, 1827, Varick passed away in his New York City home.  Originally, he was buried in the Colored Union Cemetery (now Woodlawn, Bronx, NY). His remains now repose in the crypt of the Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Harlem.    

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.” 

Those words, written in Declaration of Independence, are frequently quoted by millions of Americans. The words should be instilled in the hearts of all, as God, our creator intended.

Source References: Historical Document: "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" 1852 Africans in America; Goggle; Wikipedia; BlackPast 

July 4th, Declaration of Independence, Frederick Douglass, James Varick


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here