July 4th isn’t a celebration of black freedom, so we found four black moments of black freedom to celebrate instead.
A common phrase I remember hearing when I was a child is that black history happens every day. It was an effective, albeit cliche-way that some of my public school teachers would remind me not to be so set on February as the only month of importance when studying and researching black history.
As I’ve grown in age and education that edict remains true. As Americans of all racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds prepare for the upcoming 4th of July holiday, I am reminded of that.
The infinite road of history that stretches back beyond mankind’s ancestral memory was built one pebble at a time, one moment at a time. I don’t believe a day can be representative of a born-on date for a man’s freedom any more than I believe that calling someone a slave automatically makes it so.
Historic narratives are often fanciful tales of whimsy designed to elicit a feeling of patriotic pride from the general population. But the narrative of my ancestors is colored by far fewer red, white and blue stripes, but by the blood of a people, the color of a people and the land from which they came.
To us, July 2nd is just as good a day as July 4, Juneteenth or National Haberdashery Day to recall, recollect and reinvigorate ourselves with the truths of our existence in America.
To that end, here are Four Facts of Black Freedom for July 2.
Vermont Becomes First State to Abolish Slavery
As the other 12 colonies were still mainly concerned with repelling the British from North America and claiming their freedom, Vermont realized the hypocrisy of owning slaves while claiming the right to be free from British tyranny. Thus, the state became the first territory to abolish slavery on July 2, 1777. Also, they offered equal voting rights to Black males. A move amounting to extremism in the eyes of many pro-slavery pundits of the day.
The Execution of Denmark Vesey
July 2, 1822: History, and the recalling of such, also teaches new lessons. On this day in 1822, Denmark Vesey was executed for planning a large scale slave revolt. A free man, the result of winning a $1,500 lottery and purchasing his freedom, Denmark was inspired by the Haitian Revolt of 1791.
A snitch in his midst revealed the plan, which was to include thousands. Vesey and 35 co-conspirators were hanged. His name would be used as a Civil War rallying cry to black soldiers from none other than Frederick Douglas himself and was a hero to the antislavery movement. However, to his contemporary condemners, he was a terrorist. His story is a reminder of America’s churning conscience regarding black humanity and the inherent right man or woman has to fight and die for it.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. The legislation would officially abolish segregation in business and all other public spaces. It also banned discriminatory practices in employment and education.
For many, this act stands as the strongest civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction era. However, with time, many black academics and intellectuals have posited that desegregation may have increased black poverty by reducing the number of black businesses, black homeowners and black professionals.
Suddenly, some would say afterwards, black folks thought the white man’s ice was colder, and his water wetter, than black folks’. Whites were so abject to the idea of their children attending schools with African-American students that a mass exodus from public schools occurred all over the northeast, and those are just areas were I have first-hand knowledge. Today, most black students in America attend schools that are as segregated as they ever were before.
The act of forcing an integrated America was not to occur by osmosis, but by blood, sweat, tears, pain, and anger. Today, many believe America is as segregated as ever and becoming increasingly so by the moment.
The Creation of the American Urban Radio Network
July 2, 1972: Today, black representation in film and television are higher than they have ever been. However, the road to becoming media gatekeepers and decision-makers has been rife with racist potholes, setbacks, sellouts, and financial collapses.
But the creation of the National Black Network as the first coast-to-coast radio network completely own by African-Americans–a major step in the right direction. Own by Eugene D. Jackson, Sydney L. Small and Del Raycee, the NBN started out with 25 affiliates and aired 5-minute news segments on the hour and sportscasts several times a day on the half-hour.
This led to the creation of the American Urban Information Radio, a more news-driven operation. AUIR then merged with Sheridan Broadcasting Network to form the American Urban Radio Network, which is still operational today. White House correspondent and Washington Bureau Chief April Ryan is someone I’m sure most of us have heard of.
But when you think of any black radio personality, newswriter or a political journalist working today, know that each of them is only a few degrees of separation from an industry triple O.G. who worked for or with this outlet.
The importance is simple enough; black people telling black stories to black people on a black-owned network. When considering the alternative, there can be no going back now.