Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Christianity Today, a contributing editor at The Week, a fellow at Defense Priorities, and the author of A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today (Hachette).
What, to black Americans, is the Fourth of July? To the slave, as Frederick Douglass famously said, it is “a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him,” Douglass continued, “your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”
Douglass spoke those words in 1852. It would be another 11 years before the Emancipation Proclamation—and two more years after that before news of this liberation reached every state in the rejoined Union. The final announcement came to then-remote Texas on June 19, 1865, and thus was born our nation’s second—and fuller—Independence Day: Juneteenth.