What to an American Is the Fourth of July?Roundup
tags: holidays, American identity, 4th of July
Ibram X. Kendi is the Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University.
His impatience had thinned like the length of his letters back home to his wife, Abigail, in Boston. On June 7, 1776, John Adams finally had the opportunity to second the resolution that led to the Declaration of Independence at the Second Continental Congress. Though it was drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the declaration’s editors and defenders behind history’s scenes piloted its approval on July 2, mostly notably Adams.
He pleased his wife, Abigail, impatient, too, as she was about declaring independence that year. But she desired more. “In the new Code of Laws … I desire you would Remember the Ladies,” she wrote to him on March 31, 1776. “If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no … Representation.”
“I cannot but laugh,” the future second U.S. president responded on April 14. “We have been told that our Struggle has loosened the bands of Government every where.”
Who did John Adams include in “our Struggle”? Just the wealthy white men assembled with him in Philadelphia? Who was “our Struggle” truly for? Who really declared independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776? Who was really in the process of becoming free?
I can surmise who John’s “our Struggle” did not include, based on how he described their struggle to Abigail. He had heard that “children and Apprentices were disobedient—that schools and Colleges were grown turbulent—that Indians slighted their Guardians and Negroes grew insolent to their Masters,” John complained to Abigail. And now women “were grown discontented.” Their struggle was his problem. Their struggle was not his struggle. And his struggle was the struggle of the so-called American Patriots.
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