Museum of the American Revolution - slavery

This photo depicts 14-year-old London Pleasants, left, who left slavery by joining a Loyalist regiment encouraging other slaves to flee to the British Army in search freedom, at Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. — AP Photo/Matt Rourke

July Fourth is a celebration of kidnapping, transporting/buying/selling human beings, separating families, torture, whippings, rapes, castrations, lynchings and enslavement.

And that wasn’t too long ago either. In fact, it’s modern history as recently as a mere 17 years ago when former President Ronald Reagan died in 2004. Consider, for example, what TikTok user @doorbender perceptively pointed out in a May video that has gone viral: “When Harriet Tubman was born, Thomas Jefferson was still alive. And when Harriet Tubman died, Ronald Reagan was (still) alive. Stop saying everything was 400 years ago. It wasn’t.”

Although Tubman’s precise birth date is unknown, genealogical historians have concluded that she was definitely born in the early 1820s. When Jefferson died July 4, 1826, Tubman was approximately 3 to 5 years old. When Tubman died March 10, 1913, Reagan was already 2 years old, having been born Feb. 6, 1911.

From slavery-promoting Jefferson to slavery-abolishing Tubman to apartheid-enabling Reagan. Hmm.... Think about that for a second. America has consistently been and still consistently is racist.

So why do many Black folks continue to do their flag-waving, fireworks-blasting, and swine-barbecuing thing on July Fourth? The answer’s obvious. They’re ignorant or they’re traitors or they’re both.

Let’s start with the ignorance. First of all, ignorant doesn’t mean stupid. It simply means not knowing. And obviously, July Fourth-celebrating Black folks must not know about the 1619 birth of slavery in the British American colonies and about the 1776 birth of the racist American nation. Well, allow me to enlighten. Pull up a chair because class is in session.

Following raids in southern Africa by Europeans from Portugal beginning in 1617, two years later they invaded the village of Ndongo in Luanda, Angola and loaded 350 of those Kimbundu-speaking human beings aboard the “slave” ship São João Bautista before ordering it sent to Vera Cruz, Mexico. After setting sail, that ship, while in the waters of the so-called West Indies, encountered an English pirate ship called the Treasurer, which was accompanied by the White Lion, a ferociously armed Dutch war vessel and pirate ship. Together, they attacked and boarded the Bautista before kidnapping about 60 of the 350 Angolans. There is no historical record regarding what happened to the remaining 290 or thereabout.

Approximately less than 30 of the kidnapped 60 or so were loaded onto the White Lion, which arrived at Old Point Comfort, Va., on Aug. 25, 1619, when the human cargo was traded, sold, and forced to labor at plantations along the nearby James River in what would become Charles City. Hence, the birth of American slavery.

The other approximately 30 were forced onto the Treasurer, which, historians believe, transported them to Bermuda for enslavement in that English colony.

Although slavery was founded in Virginia, which is in the South, it wasn’t unique to that colony or state or region. It also happened in the North, including right here in Philadelphia. On the southwest corner of Front and High Streets- now Market Street- stood the London Coffee House, which opened in 1754 with funds provided by 200 local merchants. It was where shippers, businessmen, and local officials, including the governor, socialized, drank coffee and alcohol, and ate in private booths while making deals. It was where, on the High Street side, auctions were held for carriages, foodstuffs, horses, and African girls, boys, women, and men who had just been unloaded from ships that docked right across the street at the Delaware River.

Slavery was a key component of daily life here in Pennsylvania generally and Philadelphia particularly. In the 1760s, nearly 4,500 enslaved Blacks labored in the colony. About one of every six white households in the city held at least one Black person in bondage. This cruel institution began here in 1684 when the slave ship Isabella from Bristol, England, anchored in Philadelphia with 150 captured Africans. A year later, William Penn himself held three Black persons in bondage at his Pennsbury manor, 20 miles north of Philly. Even George Washington enslaved Blacks, 316 to be exact. And he held nine of them right here in the so-called City of Brotherly Love at America’s first “White House,” which was known as the President’s House at Sixth and Market (then High) Streets and which since 2010 is where a historic Slavery Memorial was installed.

Despite the claim in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal,” about 500,000 Black men, women, and children were enslaved in the Thirteen Colonies in 1776. In that same year, the Declaration- which led to the official creation of this nation- was formally adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, two days after its members voted to approve it. And during that time, slavery was legal in each of the 13 colonies, which is obvious since 27 of the 56 white male property owners who signed the Declaration enslaved Black people by holding them, shipping them, and/or investing in their forced labor.

By the way, Jefferson, who drafted (some say plagiarized) the Declaration, held 175 Black human beings in bondage in 1776 and increased that number to 267 by 1822.

Such racist duplicity is what compelled Frederick Douglass in 1852 to give a speech entitled “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.” In that unmasking and explosive elocution, he thundered:

“What, to the American ‘slave’, is your Fourth of July? I answer, 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, 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 shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery … fraud, deception … and hypocrisy- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States….”

Beginning in 2002, Avenging The Ancestors Coalition (ATAC) — of which I am a proud founding member — began a successful eight-year battle for the aforementioned Slavery Memorial at Sixth and Market Streets. And each year since 2002, ATAC has continued to avenge our enslaved ancestors at that site on July Fourth by proudly telling their story in a Critical Race Theory-type presentation.

Although COVID seems to be relenting somewhat, it still hasn’t disappeared completely. Therefore, this year’s ATAC-sponsored “Anti-July Fourth Day,” like last year’s “Anti-July Fourth Day,” will be held via Zoom on Sunday, July 4 at 2 p.m. It’ll be hosted by yours truly. The Zoom Meeting ID number is 787 9102 9266 and the Passcode is Lp9XYY.

For more information, log onto avengingtheancestors.com.

Now that you know the racist meaning of July Fourth, you’re no longer ignorant. Therefore, if you still choose to reject Blackness and embrace whiteness on July Fourth, you’ve moved from being an ignoramus to being a traitor. After all, a traitor is someone who commits treason, which is defined in Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution as follows: “Treason ... shall consist ... in ... adhering to ... enemies... [by] giving them aid and comfort.” It’s also defined in the U.S. Code at 18 U.S.C. Section 2381 as follows: “Whoever, owing allegiance to ... (one’s own nation), ... adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort ...” is guilty of treason. Celebrating an oppressor’s historically oppressive holiday is culturally giving him “aid and comfort” at your own expense.

So stop celebrating white supremacy/white savagery and start celebrating Black self-respect/Black liberation.

Michael Coard, Esq. can be followed on Twitter, Instagram, and his YouTube channel as well as at AvengingTheAncestors.com. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD 96.1 FM or 900 AM. And his “TV Courtroom” show can be seen on PhillyCAM/Verizon Fios/Comcast.

The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Philadelphia Tribune.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.