Well, after 238 years it’s tough to find a fresh angle on Independence Day.
That’s the best excuse I can make for NPR’s story noting that Jehovah’s Witnesses, “some American Indians” and the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, back in 1852, don’t/didn’t celebrate the Fourth of July like most of the rest of us do, here in this God-blessed America.
The second best excuse I can make is: What do you expect from NPR?
The 1852 Independence Day Douglass oration is a classic moment of speaking truth to power. In its time and context it must have shocked, and invigorated, the abolition movement.
But in our day, the Left likes to read it as if its message applies equally to 21st century America. See Danny Glover’s rendition of excerpts in the video below, just 11 months before the election of Barack Obama as president. Note the reaction of the crowd, as if Glover had dreamed up the speech yesterday.
The Left lives, so it seems, in an ante-bellum world.
But on Independence Day, NPR might also pause to note what Frederick Douglass said to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation:
At last the out-spread wings of the American Eagle afford shelter and protection to men of all colors, all countries and climes, and the long oppressed black man may honorably fall or gloriously flourish under the star-spangled banner. [Applause.] I stand here tonight not only as a colored man and an American, but by the express decision of the Attorney-General of the United States, as a colored citizen, having, in common with all other citizens, a stake in the safety, prosperity, honor, and glory of a common country [Cheering.] We are all liberated by this proclamation. Everybody is liberated. The white man is liberated, the black man is liberated, the brave men now fighting the battles of their country against rebels and traitors are now liberated…
Granted, we are a work in progress, these united states — and each of us. But what’s more, we are committed to the good work which God has begun in us, like no other nation that ever has existed. That’s because “We, the People” have chosen to govern ourselves — another novelty in history.
Just as you shouldn’t read the Constitution without the Declaration of Independence, the pre-Civil War Douglass must shed light on his post-Emancipation rhetoric, and vice versa.
Douglass pleaded with his government that Black men would be allowed to fight alongside white men in the Union Army, giving their last full measure of devotion to that cause which the Founders inscribed on parchment four score and seven years before.
The colored man only waits for honorable admission into the service of the country. They know that who would be free, themselves must strike the blow, and they long for the opportunity to strike that blow.
— Frederick Douglass
A country that freshly-liberated slaves would willingly fight and die for is a country worthy of, at least, an annual day of celebration.