“What is the 4th of July to the Negro?” Frederick Douglass asked this very important question in 1854. What is Independence Day to the slave? A fitting question to the black conservatives today that call other black Americans “slaves on a plantation,” then encourage them to celebrate America’s independence.
It’s not a jab. Just a friendly reminder of how Frederick Douglass thought this racial war would be won:
At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! Had I the ability and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, today, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke.
Seriously, how long do you think you can call blacks “slaves,” even as you are trying to convince them freedom and liberty in America are worth fighting for?
On July 4th, 1881, Booker T. Washington opened the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He picked the 4th of July, Independence Day, to symbolize the transition from a plantation mindset to the principles and values of personal responsibility.
Washington stressed to his students that they would have to work ten times harder as free men because they were now working for themselves. He didn’t call them names or blame the institution of slavery for their position. He showed them how to change their destiny.
By 1907, Tuskegee Institute was graduating more self-made millionaires than Harvard, Yale, and Princeton combined.
To black Americans this Independence Day, I wish you the prose of Frederick Douglass and the foresight of Booker T. Washington. I wish you the courage to speak, especially when your voice shakes. I wish you the strength to move your feet, especially when you are not standing on the solid ground of truth. I wish you the peace to love, especially when all around you are demanding hate. I wish you clarity of thought, especially when the choir that surrounds you sings a different melody.
But most of all, I wish you life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness under divine providence. The rest tends to work itself out.
Happy Independence Day!