The Meaning of Independence Day for Milwaukee’s People of Color
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By: Reggie Jackson, milwaukeeindependent.com
Two hundred and forty-one years ago, a select group of leaders in the British North American colonies decided to break ranks and form their own independent nation….
On July 4th the nation will celebrate this monumental occasion as the birthday of the United States of America.
One hundred fifty-two years ago on a hot summer day, word of the Emancipation Proclamation made it to Galveston, Texas. June 19th of 1865 was two and a half years after Lincoln’s broad proclamation freeing the enslaved population in America….
Milwaukee celebrates what’s become known as Juneteenth Day in a big way. These two celebrations, a mere fifteen days apart, are in many ways a clear sign of the disconnect that continues to exist along racial lines. Some African-Americans look at Juneteenth as their Independence Day in the same way as the nation overall celebrates its independence on the 4th of July….
Obviously, many in the African-American community celebrate the 4th of July as a huge patriotic nod to the role they or their ancestors played in fighting for their country. Juneteenth Day is a lesser holiday within the African-American community than the 4th of July.
Over the years, many have questioned the patriotism of African-Americans. This despite the fact that we have fought on behalf of this nation in all of its wars going back to before the Revolutionary War….
However, July 4th of 1776 did not represent Independence Day for my relatives and many other people of African ancestry. In fact, it would take another eighty-seven years before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing enslaved blacks. An additional two years would elapse before a Constitutional amendment ended legal slavery in December 1865.
So for nearly ninety years, we watched as whites celebrated their independence from the tyrannical King George and the British, while refusing to offer independence to millions of Africans who stood on these same shores. In 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a famous speech questioning what, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?
He saw the irony and hypocrisy of his white friends who celebrated the lifting of themselves from tyrannical rule, while continuing to not offer these same benefits to the blacks who lived within their midst….
These unalienable rights were denied to nearly 600,000 Africans at the time. When Lincoln issued his wartime proclamation, close to four million were in bondage. For them and their families, these words that we continue to celebrate were empty, hollow, and even disrespectful.
The audacity required to break with English rule was only outdone by that which declared liberty to some without even mentioning those it was denied to. For too long, we as Americans have refused to acknowledge this hypocrisy. We fly our flags and launch massive amounts of fireworks on the nation’s birthday each year without once mentioning the fact that it did not apply to Africans in America in 1776….
It is as if we are afraid to tarnish the holiday….
Independence from tyranny came slowly for the enslaved masses of men, women, and children of African descent….
Most of us have read about the Emancipation Proclamation, but few have read the document itself….
Twelve years after the 13th Amendment ended slavery, the last of the Federal troops protecting the rights of the freedmen were removed from the South. They were the only force standing in the way of a return to legal bondage….
Racial tеrrоr became the order of the day for the freedmen. Across the country they were openly beaten, rаpеd, tоrturеd and murdеred for decades with no protection from authorities. Later, they were forced to occupy segregated spaces, in homes, public places, and while traveling until the 1960s. This time left no reason to celebrate independence from tyranny.
Since this is an ignored part of our history,… It is time we begin to talk publicly in Milwaukee about why we do not all have to be happy, flag waving “patriots” on the 4th of July.
Read the full article here.
Read more Breaking News here.
See more about Fredrick Douglass here.