From The Grio — “The Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine,” Frederick Douglass said in his famous 1852 address “What to the slave is the 4th of July?”

More accurately, the celebration of the Fourth of July, of American freedom in particular, may have then belonged to white Americans but Douglass was mistaken in his assertion that the Fourth of July did not belong to African-Americans. The critical role African-Americans played in establishing the nation is not brought up enough.

There was a time, even during slavery, when it was hard to ignore the fact that Crispus Attucks, a fugitive slave, served as a key catalyst to the American Revolution. When British soldiers fired upon the colonists in 1770, in what is now immortalized as the “Boston Massacre,” Attucks was the first to die.

How ironic that a black man, once enslaved but defying the law that deemed him a slave to take his freedom, would become the martyr for freedom and equality to those who denied him the same dignity?

But it did not begin and end with Attucks. Take a closer look at the American Revolution and it’s extremely hard to ignore African-American contributions to the birth of this nation. Lord Dunmore, the British governor of Virginia, banked on African-Americans to help Britain prevail over the colonists by promising any slave who fought with the British freedom.

A visit to Colonial Williamsburg where such times are consistently played out during its popular re-enactment known as “Revolutionary City,” as well as through other programming, reveals how invested African-Americans were in the Revolutionary War and just how dramatic the decision to side with the Patriots or the Loyalists was for those enslaved. There were some who believed that there was no way that the Patriots could demand their freedom and then continue to hold another race in bondage and sided with the colonists while others saw fighting with the British as their only opportunity for freedom.

In the British “Ethiopian” brigade, about 300 African Americans fought at the Battle of the Great Bridge on December 9, 1775.

The British decision to recruit African-Americans to fight was impactful. In July 1775, George Washington went to great pains to bar African-Americans from fighting in the war but, by December 1775, had to reverse that policy to at least let free blacks serve. Some states like New Hampshire and New York took it a step further by promising freedom to slaves who fought for the Patriots. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island even had all-black companies. And many served honorably.

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  • WoW

    * Julian

    I’m so thankful I don’t think like you. It is really sad that, all America has to offer is there for the taking….if you want it. Really. I’m soo happy I met immigrants from all over the world who; slept in their cars, lived in homeless shelters, worked hella jobs while carrying a full-time coarse in: biology, chemical engineering and at the least dentistry…..all extremes but very effective in debunking the myth that there is a “MAN” that is out to get me. I know more white people that have had their homes foreclosed upon and have suffered hard economic hardship than ‘minorities’.

    Now when you have to dig a hole in the ground to take a chit or have to avoid drinking facuet water cause it might kill you…….or GOD FORBID….get your cell phone service cut off…….holla back @ yo girl.

    • Julian


      I don’t need to lose almost everything or have very little to understand what this country offers, and since you don’t know me ‘SISTA’, you wouldn’t be aware of the fact that I’m taking full advantage of the oppurntunitites avaliable to me, just like imcoming immigrants. But your story focuses soley on immigrants, not the many people native to this country who are cheated out of resources (proper education, jobs, role models,etc.). I’ve grown up middle class, around white folks my whole life, and I’ve done that “I’m so proud of my country” lingo already. I never said anything about some “MAN” being out to get ‘us’, but I suppose you don’t get that discrimination today is more furtive, looking like nothing to the unkeen eye just like the immigration laws popping up in several states that allow racial profiling and the deportation of not only illegal immigrants but their “legal” children as well in certain situations. That’s fine if you think I’m being too “Black Power” for you, but just know I’m on my way to getting my M.D., I’m graduating with honors, and currently I’m with Northwestern University (one of the top schools in the nation) doing cancer research. I know there’s lots of white people who’ve been affected by this recession, but guess what, minorities in the inner cities and other areas were already in a recession, it’s more like a depression now. So, *fist in the air* or not, don’t think I’m stupid to the point I’m going to blame a “MAN” for all my problems, as well as the people that look like. But maybe since you’re so ‘pro-USA’ you don’t know that successful or not, ‘pro-USA’ or not, you will never be utterly accepted as truely “American” in this nation till all racism ends or another drastic even occurs. I can live in America, an be apart of the culture, but I won’t be bamboozled to think that the 4th of July is for me, as radical as that may seem to you. When you finally get what I’m saying then you can ‘hollla back @ yo boy.’

  • Ew

    ThiS little girl is SO adorable.

    • true story

      i know, what a cutie!!
      Was i wrong to expect all the comments to be about her rather then the article…

  • WoW

    * Julian…..

    you seam angry… Why? Not putting you down. You seam angry? What’s up w/that?

    • Julian

      I could say the same thing about you, I mean the way you first came on with your comment you gave the impression that you were pretty ticked off. With me you stirred me up yes, but it’s also being firm to an otherwise outrageous comment. But all personal attacks aside, good arguments, maybe we can do battle again some other time…

  • Julian

    By the way to answer your question, I’m angry because I know that this country isn’t, never has been, or ever will be for us. I’m not spewing diatribe comments out of jealousy, but to prove that what was stated (no offense; your initial comment) was utterly false. Because being full of American pride no matter how many of these ‘Negro’s have tried in the past, has never brought black people to thrive. But what did was unity, a common struggle and goal, and since the dispensation of the 50’s-70’s (and probably farther back) that sense has been lost. We don’t work together, and we have what is traditionally called “Uncle Tom’s” (not saying that to you) that assimilate and begin to look down upon everyone else because they’ve “made it”, forsaking others because suddenly they’re ‘better’ than lower class black Americans, or black women have suddenly become the lowest of low when it comes to choosing a mate, or vainly proclaiming how much the country supports “all people” when they good and well know that it’s a lie.