Chris Rock Puts the 4th Of July in Historical Perspective


Comedian Chris Rock is taking flak for posting the following tweet on the 4th of July. "Happy white people independence day. the slaves weren't free but I'm sure they enjoyed fireworks."  Probably the brunt of the blowback is  coming from those "originalist" Republicans.   But the fact is the final draft of the Declaration of Independence was only approved after all mention of slavery was excised.  

In 1776 slavery was legal in every one of the original 13 colonies. There were approximately 300,000 slaves. Mostly on plantations in the South.  In 1770, black slaves outnumbered whites in South Carolina alone. In the North, Vermont was  the first colony  to ban slavery---in 1777.  New York didn't until 1799 when John Adams was president.

Speaking of Mr. Adams, he was, if you recall, on the committee that worked on the Declaration---Jefferson being the real author.  In the list of grievances against King George III, Jefferson had included: "He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere." It was this 'slave clause' that the proponents of human freedom---Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin--- had to surrender in order to gain the support of the Southern colonies for the Declaration.

In the musical play, 1776, there is a scene that still seems to resonate in our own time.   Edward Rutledge of South Carolina takes on Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in defense of slavery.

Rutledge: To us in South Carolina, black slavery is our peculiar institution and a cherished way of life.

Jefferson: Nevertheless, we must abolish it. Nothing is more certainly written in the Book of Fate than that this people shall be free.

Rutledge: I am not concerned with the Book of Fate right now, sir. I am more concerned with what's written in your  little paper there.

Adams: That 'little paper there' deals with freedom for Americans.

Rutledge: Oh, really! Mr. Adams is now callin' our black slaves Americans. Are-they-now?

Adams: They are! They're people and they're here---if there is any other requirement, I've never heard it.

Rutledge: They are here, yes, but they are not people, sir, they are property.

Jefferson: No, sir! they are people who are being treated as property. I tell you the rights of human nature are deeply wounded  by this infamous practice!

Rutledge(shouting): Then see to your own wounds, Mr. Jefferson, for you are a ---practitioner, are you not?

Jefferson: I have already resolved to release my slaves.

Rutledge: Than I'm sorry, for you have also resolved the ruination of your personal economy.

Adams: Economy. Always economy. There's more to this than a filthy purse-string, Rutledge, It's an offense against man and God.

An offense that would only be redressed by a great civil war and by the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.  But the wounds of slavery have festered ever since.  And the charity that Lincoln exhorted upon posterity, almost 150 years ago,  has still not prevailed. The legitimacy of our first black president has been a principal theme of his Republican opponents.  They question his citizenship, his religion, his academic props, his integrity, his veracity, his patriotism. The attacks are intemperate, unrelenting, and intransigent.   They call him a liar, a socialist, a communist. With an ugly partisanship that may only be paralleled by the bitter antebellum confrontations in Congress and across the land.

Can you blame Chris Rock for his tweet?  I know I don't.






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    Great article! We should all thank Chris Rock, for reminding us that the founding of our country was marred by some great sins. Independence Day should be a day to remember the greatness of the experiment our founding fathers undertook but also to face the terrible wrongs that are part of the history of our country. Mature and honest Americans should be able to admit these failings and resolve to always work toward “a more perfect union”.

  • Okay, he has a point, but it what about the other oppressed groups in this country? Should only rich, white men celebrate the 4th?

  • Rich, white men do have a lot to celebrate.

  • No he was not wrong. He was not disrespectful. The country's history shows that blacks were still slaves even though some fought in the revolutionary war. Back then, that day was not an independence day for black people. Now it is but not back then.

  • Should be noted that Britain had done away with slavery 60 years prior, and it didn't need a war to do so.

  • In reply to veggiedude:

    Thanks, veggiedude for the comment. In 1807 Britain outlawed the African slave trade, although the practice continued despite the ban. It wasn't until the 1830s that it abolished slavery except for a few places like Ceylon and St. Helena.

    Since Britain was an empire with far-flung possessions to administer, ending slavery got a little messy.

  • 1. Africans sold their own people into slavery.

    2. This land already had it's own indigenous people - the Native Americans. Where's their "independence day"....

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    In reply to goofyjj:

    No one said that native Americans were not wronged! We're just voicing that we were wronged. We are just speaking for ourselves! No one else spoke for us!

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    Lets be honest, slavery in all forms is wrong but I dont see Chris Rock doing PSA on stopping the slave trade of women (of all races) into the sex industry. I dont see him or anyone else who has so much to say on the topic of slavery saying or doing anything about the children in brothels overseas. so let's stop beating a dead horse in America (yes we were wrong but modern African Americans benefit from it just the same as white peopleat this point in our history). If they dont it has nothing to do with race and everything to do with economics. If everyone, including chris rock who makes a shitload of money off of white and black alike would stop causing problems by running his mouth and stirring up anger amd hurt feelings maybe we could address slavery everywhere and stop it from happening to everyone.

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    In reply to Amy Barker:

    Well said Amy! Why don't Chris Rock go to another country..Is there another country that would let him speak his concern so freely? That's why we celebrate Independence Day...its all about FREEDOM!

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