The 4th of July

Back on July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress, the population of the United States of America was 2.5 million (source here). As of January 2022, the population of the United States of America was 332.4 million (source here). As our population has grown tremendously over the past 246 years since the Declaration of Independence was adopted, so has our racial diversity. The following information is provided by VisualCapitalist.com:

Growing Diversity in America

As of 2019, here is the current distribution of the U.S. population by race and ethnicity:

    • White: 60.1% (Non-Hispanic)
    • Hispanic: 18.5%
    • Black: 12.2%
    • Asian: 5.6%
    • Multiple Races: 2.8%
    • American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.7%
    • Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander: 0.2%

Note that the U.S. totals do not include Puerto Rico. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on June 28, 2022, titled, We the People: Voices of the United States,” by StoryCorps, an organization created in 2003 with a “mission to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world,” the article states:

With the Fourth of July around the corner, there is a lot to reflect on as a nation from the past year. For many this is a time of celebration, to celebrate our nation and our diverse history. However, there is also much to learn as we navigate the country today.

Thoughts of country and patriotism evoke different things for different people—often, they evoke different, conflicting notions for just one person. The U.S. is complicated, its history marked by both incredible beauty and profound injustice. And so its people are complicated too: their backgrounds, experiences, and values are diverse and nuanced. Let’s recognize and honor that. This Independence Day, hear what it means to be a part of the United States right from the source. Listen to these extraordinary stories from remarkable people, all of whom make up this complicated, beautiful, and diverse country.

The following stories were drawn from across the various StoryCorps initiatives, each of which highlights voices from a particular group of people living in the U.S. As you listen, click the links at the bottom of the descriptions to explore the corresponding initiative. [Quote source and links to the stories are available at this link.]

There is a collection of articles at Zinn Education Project listed under a profile, People’s History of the Fourth of July,” which includes a collection of people’s history stories from July 4th beyond 1776. Howard Zinn (1922-2010) whom the Zinn Education Project is named after, was “a historian, author, professor, playwright, and activist. His life’s work focused on a wide range of issues including race, class, war, and history, and he touched the lives of countless people” (quote source here).

American flag and fireworks

In my search for information to include in this blog post, I came across a number of links regarding a range of divergent views when it comes to Independence Day celebrations and the 4th of July holiday. In fact, I hardly knew what to include in this post. The typical stories we are used to reading over the years rarely include some of the other pressing issues I found that surround the 4th of July holiday. You can find some of those stories at the Zinn Education Project mentioned in the previous paragraph.

I also came across a brief post (a questionnaire) published on June 27, 2022, titled, We’re asking all immigrants–what does the 4th of July mean to you?” by Elena Burnett at NPR that states:

This Fourth of July, we want to hear from those who immigrated to the United States about what the day means to you.

How do you celebrate? Did America live up to the promise it held when you moved here?

Please fill out the form below, and a producer or reporter may follow up with you. [The form asks for contact and demographic information and includes seven questions.] (Quote source here.)

Due to the diversity of opinions I came across in my search (and it will be interesting to read the results from the NPR survey mentioned above once the data has been collected), I decided to include a brief history of the 4th of July holiday from History.com as this is the historical account of how the 4th of July became a Federal holiday in America:

The Fourth of July—also known as Independence Day or July 4th—has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues. The Fourth of July 2022 is on Monday, July 4, 2022.

History of Independence Day

When the initial battles in the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, few colonists desired complete independence from Great Britain, and those who did were considered radical.

By the middle of the following year, however, many more colonists had come to favor independence, thanks to growing hostility against Britain and the spread of revolutionary sentiments such as those expressed in the bestselling pamphletCommon Sense,” published by Thomas Paine in early 1776.

On June 7, when the Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence.

Amid heated debate, Congress postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution, but appointed a five-man committee—including Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of ConnecticutBenjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York—to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain.

On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence in a near-unanimous vote (the New York delegation abstained, but later voted affirmatively). On that day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.” (Quote source and additional information is available at this link.)

NOTE: “On July 4th, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which had been written largely by Jefferson. Though the vote for actual independence took place on July 2nd, from then on the 4th became the day that was celebrated as the birth of American independence.” (Quote source here.)

That is how the 4th of July became a Federal holiday 246 years ago, and why we continue to celebrate it as a national holiday here in America right up through today.

In a short story published on July 6, 2017, on LinkenIn.com, titled, A Very Diverse July 4th,” by Vince Vitiello, President at New America Marketing. He wrote:

On Tuesday [July 4, 2017], the USA celebrated Independence Day, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Lost between the department store and auto specific sales commercials is the true meaning of “Why America is Great”.

Quietly, my family and I celebrated the fourth at our apartment in Midtown Manhattan. At about 6 PM, before the roar of the Macy’s firework display, my wife prepared a simple cookout in a common area of our building. At the table next to us was a Chinese family of ten, including four generations, two of which were born in China. At another table, there was a three-generation South-Asian family. We were just a two-generation family. My son’s 4 great grandparents were all born in Italy, but at the age of 23, he still refers to himself as Italian-American.

As the sun disappeared and darkness overcame the canyons of buildings, fireworks exploded in the New York City skyline.

We were all on the roof. A Middle-Eastern resident, whom I have never met, handed me a “whiskey” to celebrate. Different beverages, the aroma of barbeque food from multiple countries and a symphony of languages all living, celebrating and thankful for our wonderful divine country. This is “Why America is Great!” (Quote source here.)

A song often played at 4th of July celebrations is The Star-Spangled Banner.” The Star-Spangled Banneris the national anthem of the United States. The lyrics come from the “Defence of Fort M’Henry, a poem written on September 14, 1814, by 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the large U.S. flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort during the U.S. victory” (quote source here). So, appropriately, I’ll end this post with the last three lines from “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave . . .

O’er the land of the free . . .

And the home of the brave . . .

YouTube Video: “Star Spangled Banner” sung by Whitney Houston:

Photo #1  credit here
Photo #2 credit here