On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass —once called America’s most famous fugitive slave—delivered a speech to the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, N.Y. His oration is often considered a radical denunciation of America’s political tradition; he characterized the Fourth of July as a hypocritical sham from the point of view of the millions living in the country who were still enslaved.
The speech, which is now widely titled “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?,” has become a staple of high-school and college education. In my class atSyracuse University, students read Douglass’s speech alongside other famous texts on slavery, abolition and free labor. Of these, Lincoln and Douglass are arguably the most readable and popular.
Douglass in particular makes his points in a way that is simultaneously generous, mean, cruel, funny and memorable. Like a good tweet. Perhaps for this reason, social media have recently picked up on Douglass’s writings. And students can now choose from a growing variety of online deliveries by James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover and stage actors. But as with all great works, popularization has its hazards.
July 4, 2013 is America’s Independence Day — and still the babies are not free.
Acts 17:24, 26, 27 states: “God made the world and everything in it. He is lord of heaven and Earth. And he made of one blood, all nations of people to dwell on all the earth, and determined the places where they would live; that they should seek the lord and find him.”
In the United States, Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a national holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the kingdom of Great Britain.
Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, political speeches and ceremonies, and various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States.
Independence Day is the national day of the United States.
During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the American colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia.
After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author.
Congress debated and revised the declaration, finally approving it on July 4.
Nearly a century later, the war for freedom continued on this continent. During this time, President Abraham Lincoln prayed to God to end slavery in America. In his prayer, he asked God that if slavery was wrong, to please allow the North to win the war.
The North won of course.
The battle for freedom still continues today, with the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that Protestants and Catholics, gentiles and Jews will sing “Free at Last” together.
We must remember that all of this started with the prayers of the founding fathers of America.
Along with the founding fathers usually listed in history books, a notable African American, John Hanson, is sometimes listed as one of the founding fathers, along with James Armistead, and Peter Salem. Also, other notable blacks such as Benjamin Banneker and Crispus Atticus are credited with helping to establish our nation’s independence.
This year during the Juneteenth Celebration, members of Congress and former black Congressman J. C. Watts recognized the work of black slaves in building our nation’s Capitol.
So today, we celebrate the ongoing march towards true liberty for all Americans, born and unborn.
Please take a moment now to remember the word in the Declaration of Independence:
“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.”
Were there African-American founding fathers?
Were there African Americans present at the founding of America? We know that most African Americans were slaves when this nation was founded, and we also know that many of the Caucasian founding fathers were slave owners.
However, it is not widely know that some black Americans also owned slaves during that time in history. Slavery is an evil form of oppression, not always demarked by the skin color of the slaves and the slave owners.
We know that African-American slaves were forced to exert manual labor to help build the first White House. The question remains, what were some of the other important roles of African Americans in our country’s independence?
The official name “The United States of America” was determined by the Second Continental Congress in 1977.
It would be nearly 100 years later, in 1863 at the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, that African Americans would legally be freed from the forced servitude and labor called slavery.
Let us examine the roles of some African Americans at the time of the founding of America.
One of those was Peter Salem, who can be found in a painting of the Battle of Bunker Hill.
In the painting of the Battle of Lexington, the people assembled here are members of Rev. Jonas Clark’s congregation. They were a congregation of both black and white Americans. One of those men was Prince Estabrook, a black American.
Remember the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware? Near the front of the boat you will see Prince Whipple helping row the boat, as well as a woman.
All Americans were involved in winning our independence.
There is another painting of Marquis de Lafayette, the Frenchman who so greatly helped George Washington with our troops, and James Armistead. Armistead was an American double-spy who helped get information from the British and in turn fed the Brits bad information about us.
His service was pivotal to our success at the Battle of Yorktown . . . which effectively won the American Revolution for us.
David Barton is founder of Wall Builders and author of “American History in Black and White.”
Another noted historian of the founding of America is Dr. Lucas Morel, a professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia and author of “Lincoln’s Sacred Effort.”
These historians write in great detail about Armistead’s role in American history, as well as the friendship between Lafayette and Armistead.
They also write about Wentworth Cheswell, who is considered the first black American elected to public office. We all know about Paul Revere’s famous ride warning that the British were coming, but Cheswell rode in another direction to give the same warning.
While we know that most blacks were slaves in America during the time of its founding, many do not know or have forgotten that there are also African-American founders.
Since many of these black founders show up in various paintings of the Revolution, we have evidence about the role of black Americans in our founding. Somewhere along the way, like many historical facts, this has been forgotten.
Many attempt to connect Frederick Douglass, who is a better known African-American leader, to the founding of America.
Yet, since he actually lived years later, it would be more accurate to place him in history as a “re-founder, emerging during the time of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.”
Douglass once believed the “Three-Fifths Compromise ” was a terrible affront to enslaved black Americans and that it rendered the U.S. Constitution totally corrupt. However, when he studied the Constitution along with the notes from the Constitutional Convention, he realized it was an anti-slavery document.
According to Barton, some of the Caucasian Founders were anti-slavery, recognizing that slavery was wrong and was counter to the ideals of freedom upon which the American Revolution was based.
However, there were many in the South who wanted to preserve slavery in the United States, and the impasse threatened the union of our fledgling nation. As a compromise, they came up with the idea of counting slaves as “three-fifths” for the purposes of representation and apportionment.
If a slave was not worthy of freedom like any other American, then he should not really be counted for the purposes of representation and apportionment.
Of course, the Southern states saw how this would hurt them in the federal government, so they compromised by counting slaves at three-fifths of a free person.
It made it harder for pro-slavery states to get as much representation in Congress; thus the anti-slavery states would have greater representation in apportionment . . . and in making laws for the nation in general.
This gave the Southern states an incentive to free their slaves so that their overall population numbers would increase and thus give the Southern states greater representation and apportionment.
Through the years, this flawed effort continues to be interpreted as considering blacks to be three-fifths human. Even now, in the twenty first century, the battle continues to resolve the right of blacks the full and equal right of the vote.
Thomas Jefferson spoke out against slavery while owning slaves. He even had a Caucasian wife and a slave mistress, Sally Hemming.
Most people don’t know that Sally was Martha’s half-sister, they had the same father, a slave owner.
According to written historical accounts, she looked like Martha. Sally moved into the White House after Martha died of a broken heart. How strange it must have been for Jefferson to be constantly reminded of his dead wife.
Sally’s children were the only slaves Jefferson freed; he did so upon his death, but by that time a couple of Sally’s children had already escaped. Being so fair-skinned, they passed into white society, keeping their past a secret.
While many of the founding fathers were like Jefferson, some were not. One example is John Quincy Adams.
Adams denounced slavery more strongly than did any other early American presidents, calling slavery “a sin before the sight of God,” an “outrage upon the goodness of God,” and “the great and foul stain upon the North American Union.”
In an especially eloquent statement, Adams wrote: “It is among the evils of slavery that it taints the very sources of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice: for what can be more false and heartless than this doctrine which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity to depend upon the color of the skin?”
The reality of America’s history, both good and bad, should be revised and rewritten, to include the truths that have been hidden.
Black leaders like Lemuel Haynes who was a black American, born to a white woman and a black man became a minister and pastored a church with a white congregation, and also fought in the militia in the American Revolution.
There was also Benjamin Banneker, a black American who was involved in the planning of Washington D.C. and who was said to be very intelligent and involved with building clocks and predicting eclipses.
Of course, Black slaves were forced to provide the manpower for the hard labor of building our nation’s Capitol. And Blacks would be used cruelly as slaves in America until 1863.
Some did not realize they had been freed until even later.
The Bible says that when Jesus Christ sets a person free, that person is free indeed. Understanding this, we know that the real formula for liberty for everyone is in Jesus Christ.
One question is this, why didn’t the Caucasian Founding Fathers follow God’s pattern for freeing slaves? It is found in the book of Leviticus, chapter 25, where slave owners were charged to free slaves after seven years, and send them away with goods and property.
This never happened in America.
Today, while many African Americans thought that having a United States president with brown skin would set them free, we must realize that our liberty comes not from human might, power or ability, but true freedom comes from accepting the salvation and lordship of Jesus Christ.
The first jubilee is in the Bible, and a slave liberator named Moses, a Man of God was used to lead his people to freedom. There are also modern-day leaders who lead people to truth and liberty.
In the 1950s and ’60s a man of God named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was called by God to lead a people to the Promised Land. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t get there with us, yet he looked over and saw a time of liberty.
Dr. King once said this:
“A religion true to its nature must also be concerned about man’s social conditions . . . Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them is a dry-as-dust religion.”
According to the Bible in Acts 17, there are no separate races of human beings (male and female), there is only one human race.
This is why the age-old battle of racism is so tragic. Truly there can be no independence for a nation or a people group until all people are recognized as human beings. Of course this truth applies to skin color, age, physical conditions, and the whole host of human elements that people experience during their lifetimes.
It is human nature to equate liberty with the opportunity to do everything that feels good to individuals without considering the needs of humanity as a whole. It is also human nature to debate over divine order, while all the while humanity as a whole suffers from a poverty of spirit.
Throughout our history, people have made vast and notable contributions to our history. Yet, we all have not been treated fairly by a system that was formed in hypocrisy.
Today, babies in their mothers’ wombs are treated with inequity. And there are still the issues of racism, sexual perversion, and reproductive genocide to overcome. Humans try to fix problems and eradicate sin with manmade laws. Yet, imperfect manmade laws have caused our nation to operate under a curse.
This curse must be broken in order for America to prosper.
Today, many people in America and the world live in bondage. Too many are enslaved by the sins of fear, violence, racism, reproductive genocide, sexual perversion, economic idolatry, sickness and greed. These issues must now be addressed with agape love and truth.
May July 4, truly become a symbol of freedom, not just for some, but for all.
“So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John 8:36 NLT
Dr. Alveda C. King grew up in the civil rights movement led by her uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She is a pastoral associate and director of African-American outreach for Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries. Her family home in Birmingham, Ala., was bombed, as was her father’s church office in Louisville, Ky. Alveda herself was jailed during the open housing movement. Read more reports from Dr. Alveda C. King
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