By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
“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.” — Declaration of Independence
Holding onto the promise of freedom, slaves fought vigorously alongside British and Continental soldiers during the American Revolution.
Bitterness flared up among the colonists, as King George III, of England, inflicted economic oppression.
First, there was a Sugar Act tax. Then, a Currency Act was enforced that stopped the printing of paper money. The Mutiny Act called for rendering care to British troops living among them. Finally, the Stamp Act required the colonists to buy stamps for documents, newspapers, cards, pamphlets and other items.
Tired of the oppression, the colonists fought back.
Although the 13 colonies were victorious over Great Britain, winning their independence, only about 5,000 blacks would benefit from the promises announced; for, most blacks were not included among the utterance of the words, “We the people” and would have to wait nearly a hundred years longer to hear their freedom declared.
“It makes no sense to support your oppressor's independence from another oppressor. This is captive bonding at its best. It wasn't until 1863 (around 87 years later) that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Even that was followed by another 100 years or so of Jim Crow and struggles for basic civil and human rights,” says Rodney Billingsley. “So, what are Blacks really independent from, when there is an active effort to assimilate into a society that continues to resist them if they do not support the status quo?”
As people throughout the country celebrate the 4th of July, some question should African Americans commemorate the date.
“While it is great that the Americas broke away from Britain's rule, America has not displayed equity and social justice to African Americans, specifically to those Ancestors that helped build it,” says Elijah Washington. “We continue to receive disparity in all aspects of life. We should not celebrate a holiday that does not honor African American contributions to its independence.”
Those contributions are marked with the blood of many who sacrificed their lives in hopes of achieving freedom and independence from their enslavers.
“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 nigg**,” wrote Andre Austin, in an article entitled, “Man Talk”. “And the field nigg** 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.”
Others also say that celebrating Independence Day should have little significance among African Americans and describe the Declaration of Independence as a useless document that belittled a race of people.
“That's what comes to my mind when I think of this holiday. White men drafting a document stating that in this country I'm considered less than a man,” says Anthony Mitchell. “This view still lives on. Just look around at the current state of white superiority towards African Americans. It’s 2015, and we still argue over racist artifacts like rebel flags that supported slavery.”
Whereas some look down on celebrating the holiday because of its historical background, others view it with new eyes.
“I view it as a time for families to come together and celebrate our freedoms today,” said Jalisa Simpson. “It’s a new beginning. It’s time to move on to new exciting things and not to take the freedom we have today for granted.”
Kimberly Washington agrees and says that President Barack Obama is proof that times have changed.
“While in times of slavery, I can understand why an African American wouldn't exactly feel the same sense of nationalism as an American, who wasn't dealing with their burden. Those days are a thing of the past. The current administration is not the government that previously enslaved your ancestors. Civil rights for blacks are protected in modern-day America. Their race has no reason to aim any resentment for slavery practices at our current country,” she explained.
It’s without dispute that our current country’s roads were paved with the blood, sweat and tears of courageous individuals. Their contributions should never be forgotten.
“Children should be taught the truth – good and bad,” adds Mitchell. “History books omit the contributions of African Americans during the American Revolution, so we have to fill in the pages. They were more than slaves. They served a purpose greater than working in cotton fields and answering to the beck and call of their enslavers. They were courageous men and women who valued freedom to the point of risking their lives. And, I pray that we don’t take that freedom for granted.”