Feature – The Choice : Democracy or White Supremacy! This dilemma is as old as the founding of America. The Declaration of Independence of 1776 set forth the ideals of a democratic state established on democratic principles. However, the original Constitution of 1787 contradicted the original declaration and enshrined democracy for “white” men. Enslaved Africans, native Indians, and women were not included. The struggle to include the “left out” has been the great project of the democratic experiment in America. This Fourth of July, we offer the following five articles which wrestle with this problem and provide essential historical and contemporary insights.
America Started Over Once. Can We Do It Again? If America was to survive, it would have to be reborn. That rebirth was embodied — after 80 years and a brutal civil war — in the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, which together represented a radical recommitment to our first and highest principles. They outlawed slavery, made the newly freed slaves American citizens and guaranteed their right to vote. Read more
The fight against Trump is a battle for freedom. Trump’s opponents are seemingly confused about how to respond in this election year. Do they appeal to whites or nonwhites, progressives or moderates, move to the left to rally the “base” or hew to the center to capture the swing voters? Should they make an economic argument or a social argument, target those concerned about jobs or those angry about the president?These are false choices, though, because our salvation will be what it always has been. On this 242nd birthday of the United States, let’s rededicate ourselves to freedom. Read more
Abraham Lincoln’s Warning. The 16th president of the United States knew what the 45th does not. The Declaration of Independence is at the core of our political inheritance. Think nothing of me—take no thought for the political fate of any man whomsoever—but come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence. You may do anything with me you choose, if you will but heed these sacred principles.”You recall the principles as the authors of the Declaration set them forth: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Read more
Frederick Douglass and Donald Trump: Faint hope endures this Fourth of July. In the age of Donald Trump, when white supremacy is openly resurgent, and an unapologetic racist authoritarian is president, Douglass’s “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” resonates even more. Perhaps it is time for white Americans to solve their self-inflicted crisis of American democracy without the help of black and brown people. We have already done enough. But even in this frustration there is another lesson to be learned from Frederick Douglass. He understood that black Americans are a people with a fierce loyalty to the best of what America can be. As we have always done, we will take on a special burden and struggle to save America from itself. Read more
When the Fourth of July Was a Black Holiday. After the Civil War, African Americans in the South transformed Independence Day into a celebration of their newly won freedom. The Fourth became an almost exclusively African American holiday in the states of the former Confederacy—until white Southerners, after violently reasserting their dominance of the region, snuffed these black commemorations out. Read more