Cinco de Mayo. St. Patrick’s Day. Halloween. Christmas. The list goes on. In the United States of America, we have the habit of adopting other culture’s holidays as our own. One might say that this is because America is a “melting pot”. I personally feel that America commercialized these holidays to profit off of them, while claiming to do so in the name of diversity and understanding. If you do not believe me, research how Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Mexico or how Ireland celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, and you’ll see just how much America has commercialized these holidays, even their own. The history behind these holidays are not taught, and many people end up blindly celebrating them solely to enjoy the commercial benefits. One such situation is when African Americans celebrate the American day of Independence, July 4th.
July 4th has become an identity conundrum for African Americans. How do African Americans celebrate independence on a day where they were still in bondage? If we are being honest, the number of years which Africans were slaves of Europeans (American colonials were European, and not yet recognized as independent of England.) nearly doubles the years America has been independent of England.
It has been well documented that African slaves fought for the Colonials, and the British during the American Revolutionary war. That being said, the number of enlisted African slaves was heavily skewed towards the British. Analysts have estimated that between eighty and one hundred thousand enslaved Africans enlisted to fight alongside the British “red coats”. The British, more specifically Governor Dunmore of Virginia promised freedom to enslaved Africans under rebel control. Do you think that if Britain was victorious, instead of the Colonials that Africans would have been freed?
In all likelihood, that would not be the case, as slavery was not outlawed in Britain until 1834. Also, Dunmore only offered freedom to Africans under rebel control. This did not apply to those Africans under the control of those slave owners whom were loyal to Britain. Still, the fallout from a “red coat” victory would have been intriguing to say the least.
Africans also fought for the Colonials. Few were free men. Continuing on, what I find most intriguing about this regards enslaved Africans. Enslaved Africans enlisting in place of their colonial slave owners was commonplace. After the Colonials won their independence in 1776, Africans went back to being slaves. In 1787, those same Colonials agreed to the Three-Fifths Compromise. In short, for tax purposes African slaves were to be counted as three-fifths of a Caucasian man. When it came to the Revolutionary War, an African slave was good enough to sacrifice his life, taking his slave owner’s place in battle; however, was not good enough to be considered and counted as a whole man.
I, like many of you will be at barbecues and family outings this weekend. Whether you’re of African descent or Caucasian descent, I encourage you to maintain the proper perspective of this holiday. As a descendent of those African slaves, it would be insulting for me to claim July 4th as an independence day of my own. On this day, the majority of enslaved Africans didn’t obtain their independence becoming a free people. Therefore, I congratulate and give my best wishes to the descendants of the Colonial Americans. This is your day. Here’s to your ancestors and their bravery. Three Cheers.