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What Is July 4 to African-Americans?


On July 4, 1854, William Lloyd Garrison celebrated Independence Day at a rally in Framingham, Mass., by publicly burning a copy of the U.S. Constitution, a document he characterized as “a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell.”

Enraged by Southerners who invoked the Constitution to justify human bondage, Garrison and other abolitionists had turned against the Framers and America’s foundational documents. Initially, this was true of Frederick Douglass, the freed slave who became the conscience of the anti-slavery movement, and its most eloquent orator...