The Baltimore Afro-American
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The Baltimore Afro-American expressed various interpretations of African Americans’ feelings towards the Fourth of July. A theme of inequality and emancipation radiates throughout the publication. The best example of this was found in an article written in July of 1930 by Oscar DePriest. Although African Americans had already obtained emancipation in this period, segregation was widespread in American society. DePriest stated that “I hear men of the Caucasian race bragging about their black mammies. It doesn’t seem that sucking at the mammies’ breasts hurt their health. Then how is it going to hurt them to ride on the same street car?” Throughout the publication of the Baltimore Afro-American, African Americans faced continuous, illogical inequality. The paper expressed that disparities did not cease in Appomattox Court House. The equal protection of African American citizens under the law was violated for nearly another century through segregation as legalized through Jim Crow Laws. Still others were content with their current situation and sought to fully assimilate into American society by partaking in the traditional Fourth of July celebrations. For example, Roy Wilkins, President of the NAACP, wrote an article in 1970 that presented the contemporary issues of the time. He stated that although the United States was not perfect, the Fourth should be a day of celebration and reprieve, not the epitome of complaints. This proved that not everyone agreed on how the Fourth should be remembered. The Fourth of July took center stage in a blossoming Civil Rights Movement.
Rothschild Francis’ August 1, 1931 article, “It is Dangerous to Read Declaration of Independence in Public Now,”showed that the government was corrupt and only exemplified the ideals of freedom and equality when it was advantageous to white Americans. The Declaration of Independence ignored the rights of African Americans and the Civil War only granted freedom because it was convenient for “the northern ruling class.” He suggested that the legality of slavery after the passing of the Declaration of Independence was grounds enough to dismiss the holiday. Francis believed that The Fourth of July was entirely insignificant to African Americans and that it should instead become a day of activism to stand against the corruption and oppression they continually faced. This article was particularly interesting because it highlighted the contempt that many African Americans held towards the Fourth of July and the U.S. Government.
In “South Didn’t Celebrate Fourth,” (July 23, 1920) Mr. Holmes, and the editor who included his sentiments in the paper, describe the celebration of the Fourth of July below the Mason-Dixon line and attitude of bitter southern whites in a post reconstruction America. From the article there seems to be the sentiment among southern whites that the freedom given to African Americans after the war led to a decline in freedom for themselves. There seems to be the idea that there is a limited amount of freedom in the world and that by giving some to African Americans, there is suddenly less to go around. The southern United States that Holmes describes is one with obvious grudges over the defeat of the Confederacy. There is also the issue of the education system being used to keep a very specific and pro-confederacy narrative of the Civil War. One element that made this article stand out among others was its use of the word “Cracker” to describe southern whites.This article has components that speak on an African American perspective on the Fourth of July, but also political misrepresentation and the lost cause mentality.