With his back turned, he posed for the camera and exposed his scourged back. Drenched in thick snake welts, you could almost hear the sounds of large, angry whips crackling against his black flesh. With tightly coiled hair covered in mud and dirt, he sat there with an absent stare as his gangly left arm rested on his hip. Noosed firmly with our nation’s flag, he remained emotionless. His eyes weren’t wide with fear and his hands weren’t grasping at his throat. No, he sat there gallantly while revealing no signs of a broken spirit. The horrible scars on his back bear testimony to his endurance and the diabolical treatment he received at the hands of his malicious overseer, who without a doubt did not possess an ounce of mercy or humanity in him, and perhaps delighted in fulfilling the wishes of the plantation owner. Was he a father or a husband? Were his children waiting up for him? Neither his name nor his story was important on July 4, 2018. In fact, because the photo depicted him as a brutally beaten slave, it was posted online by numerous bloggers, and quickly became an awful trend on social media like a herpes virus outbreak. These bloggers made this image viral in order to justify why African Americans should not celebrate the birth of our nation. Unfortunately, many African Americans operate under the misguided notion that our ancestors weren’t involved in securing America her independence, or that we did not contribute significantly to building this nation. On the contrary, there are ample facts that cannot be ignored and prove that this holiday is more than just a white man’s independence day. It is our birthright as fellow Americans.
Here in the United States, we celebrate the birth of our great nation on the Fourth of July of each year. A plethora of red, white, and blue flags flap proudly against the patriotic breeze; children shrilly chant in parades; sauce-smeared drumsticks, homemade hamburgers, and slippery wieners sizzle on open grills—recipe for a perfect birthday celebration. Yet, the Fourth of July reminds a vast majority of African Americans of America’s sordid racial past. Case in point, one blogger insisted, “[t]ell me again why black people are celebrating July 4th? Your ancestors weren’t even fighting and weren’t even freed from the brutal slavery almost 100 years after. If you think this day includes you, you’re wrong. Happy Fourth of You Lie!” Yes, a majority of our ancestors were slaves, but they were also fearless soldiers, sailors, and captains.
Although the United States abolished the slave trade within her borders in 1807, our ancestors were domestic slaves both during and after the American Revolutionary War. However, how do you incite slaves to fight in a war on your behalf with nothing in return? You give them what they want most—you promise them freedom. Consequently, due to the shirking number of able-bodied white men, both the British and the patriots saw the potential benefits of allowing black slaves to help fight for their cause. Take George Washington as an example. Desperate for manpower, Washington reluctantly submitted to the idea of recruiting both free and enslaved African Americans into the army. The result? Approximately 5,000 freedmen and slaves enlisted in the Continental Army during the war, and more than 140 African Americans served in the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, otherwise known as the “Black Regiment.” How dare we sit quietly and forget that the first casualty of the American Revolution was an African American named Crispus Attucks during the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770? Or how could we forget Peter Salem who shot and killed notorious British Major John Pitcairn of the British Marines at the battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, and Salem Poor who purchased his freedom, fought with distinction and killed British Lieutenant-Colonel James Abercrombie? Yes, hunched down on dewy grass, our ancestors stealthily gripped their muskets with frigid hands, ignoring the effluvium that warned them of death. Their request was simple—freedom. Yes, our ancestors so valiantly and honorably fought alongside the revolutionists and displayed incredible valor. Whether free or enslaved, our ancestors sacrificed their lives in the hope for liberty; a dream that would blossom into reality only at death.
Instead of honoring our ancestors who fought not only for our liberty, but also for the liberty of this foreign country, infected bloggers prefer to spread their ignorance about our ancestors’ freedom and sacrifice. One blogger boldly argues, “What were your ancestors doing on July 4, 1776? Oh, that’s right! They were picking cotton. Black people look really stupid today celebrating white peoples’ independence. Instead of today, why not celebrate January 1, 1863, the day our ancestors became free when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation? Juneteenth was our ancestors’ independence.” Uh, absolutely wrong! Reading ignorant comments like this can cause a recurrent chlamydia outbreak. Inaccurate, blister facts and painful cold sore comments about our ancestors’ freedom can only be cured with an acyclovir cream of truth. Remember, old honest Abe wasn’t so honest like many would like to believe. First, the Emancipation Proclamation served for only two purposes: to threaten the Southern states to cease their rebellion action by January 1, 1863, and second, as a war strategy in order to defeat the Confederacy. Therefore, just as the patriots recognized the need of having both free and enslaved men to fight in the Revolutionary War, Abraham Lincoln also recognized the need of African Americans in order to preserve the Union Army. Once again, in the name of freedom, over 200,000 of our ancestors enlisted both in the Union army and in the navy. The Emancipation Proclamation was not written to help eradicate the overflowing misery of our ancestors’ plight. Lincoln unintentionally revealed the inclination of his heart when drafting the Emancipation Proclamation in a letter to Hon. Horace Greeley during the Civil War. Lincoln confessed, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves I would do it.” So, how did our ancestors gain their freedom if the Emancipation Proclamation was just a strategic plan? Great question! While slave owners were out fighting in the war, slaves gained their own freedom by abandoning their owner’s plantation entirely.
James Armistead Lafayette was an African American slave who served the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War as a spy under the Marquis de Lafayette. Pretending to be a runaway slave, Armistead infiltrated British camps and gained valuable intelligence
Overall, it saddens me when a great deal of African Americans know so little, if not any, about the investment our ancestors made since the founding of this nation. We are and have always been a vital aspect of American history. Regrettably, young African Americans aren’t taught the truth about their ancestors. They are taught in length about our nation’s founding fathers, however, it takes a lousy twenty-nine days to honor America’s most loyal citizens. Therefore, African Americans must remember the bloodshed of our ancestors whether they were free or enslaved. We should always remember the cold moonlit night of March 5, 1770, where Crispus Attucks unselfishly offered his blood on behalf of many. Fourth of July is very much so our holiday, and we should rejoice with pride and dignity. I know I will.
Happy 4th of July!