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A CONFLICTED FOURTH: Some Black Americans struggle celebrating Fourth of July

By Michael D’Onofrio, Philadelphia Tribune

For African-Americans, the commemoration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 — and its promises of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness while slavery was still the law of the land — is complicated, according to Charles Blockson, a historian, scholar and author of African-American culture and history.

For Blockson, 84, the Fourth of July conjures up thoughts of “progress,” “hypocrisy,” and, “in a sense, hope,” as well as a “miseducation.”

“We’re still fighting for our rights,” he said.

As far as celebrating the Fourth of July on Wednesday, Blockson does not. Instead, he said he focuses on “collecting, preserving, and disseminating our history.”

The contradiction of the Declaration of Independence declaring “all men are created equal” is especially potent in Philadelphia.

While the Declaration of Independence was signed on the first floor of Independence Hall, the second floor was the site of a federal district court where fugitive slave violations were handled, according to Adam Duncan, a National Park Service ranger at the Independence National Historical Park.

“Independence Hall is a symbol of paradox,” he said. “Downstairs celebrated freedom and upstairs you have fugitive slave trials going on.”


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