Independence Day or Thug Holiday: Should Black People Celebrate July 4th?

“Our country ‘tis of thee/land of liberty/But that’ll never be/not in America” – “Amerika” – Trick Daddy

It was the annual Independence Day party and Club US was packed wall to wall with Black folks dressed in red, white, and blue, looking like thugged-out Uncle Sams. Everybody was enjoying the holiday to the fullest. But suddenly, DJ Freddie D stopped the music and yelled, “Y’all do know that we weren’t free in 1776, right?” That’s when the crowd turned ugly and started throwin’ chairs and champagne bottles at the DJ booth. Order wasn’t restored until the cops showed up and arrested Freddie D for starting a riot…

Every year, African Americans spend millions of dollars on hot dogs, booze, and fireworks to celebrate this country’s Independence Day. Problem is, while the ”bombs were burstin’ in air,” my ancestors were still pickin’ tobacco in the hot Carolina sun.

Despite how many times you tell some people, they just can’t seem to get it through their thick skulls that Black folks were not free in 1776!

Although the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass posed the question back in 1876, ”What to the slave is the Fourth of July?”, more than a hundred years later, we still have not gotten a good answer.

At most, some outraged, overly patriot dude dismisses the question by saying, “Well, Buddy, we are all Americans now.” Or the classic line, “This here’s America, and if you don’t love it, you can take the first boat back to Africa.”

Good answers. But that wasn’t the question.

No matter how drunk you get at Uncle Rudy’s July 4th pig pickin’, and how many firecrackers you set off, that still won’t change the fact that chattel slavery in this country did not end until almost 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Matter of fact, it must be noted that Black folks gained nothing from America’s victory over the British. Lerone Bennet wrote in his book, Before the Mayflower, that Lord Dunmore, former governor of colonial Virginia, issued a proclamation on November 5, 1775, promising freedom to all male slaves willing to fight for England. This was more than 80 years before Lincoln “freed” the slaves in states that were rebelling against the Union.

Also, Britain abolished slavery in 1833, and it was not until three decades later, that slavery was abolished in America.

Dr. WEB Dubois once wrote about the “the double consciousness” of being both African and American. This contradiction was not lost on the Hip-Hop generation.

Since its early days, Hip-Hop has tackled the issue of Black patriotism. During the height of Reaganomics, in the mid-‘80s, pioneer rapper, Kurtis Blow, proudly rapped that America was his favorite country. Decades later, during the Era of Terror, Petey Pablo told the USA not only to “raise up,” but to “take the flag/put it in the air/and spin it like a helicopter.”

However, most rappers have been more critical.

Back in 1988, Public Enemy said on “Louder than a Bomb”, “Picture us coolin’ out / On the 4th of July/ And if you heard we were celebrating/ That’s a world wide lie!”

On his 2001 song, “My Country,” Nas claimed that America wanted to get rid of him because he knew too much.

The criticisms did not only come from New York rappers, but the West Coast had beef with Uncle Sam, as well. Right after leaving N.W.A., Ice Cube released the anti-patriotic 1990 CD, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, and also West Coast artist Paris released scathing CDs like The Devil Made Me Do It.

Although not known for political awareness, Southern rappers have also challenged America’s past and present atrocities. On 2002’s, “Thug Holiday,” Trick Daddy challenged the mis-educational system by questioning why when authors write history books about America’s wars, the only people that die are the Americans? As if no one else on the planet counts.

And, while some may argue that America electing her first Black Commander-in- Chief as a reason to fight for your right to party on the 4th, Plies said on “Why U Hate Me,” “They say our president’s Black/But we can’t tell, though.”

Let’s be clear. This is not a matter of hatin’ on people eatin’ hot dogs, but challenging historical falsehoods. Nor does it have anything to do with “Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” but everything to do with lies and the pursuit of truth.

The big question is, if we accept the historical inaccuracies as fact, can we really criticize the youth for following rappers who glamorize the false notion that if you sell drugs and go to jail, eventually you will emerge from prison as a millionaire entertainer?

If America can celebrate a fake holiday based on a Freedom denied to those who built this country, then the gangstas have the right to create their own Thug Holiday, celebrating the many contributions that gangsta rap has made to American society.

While patriotic Americans preach the virtues of Freedom, this does not apply to Freedom of Thought. They prefer you to repeat dogma, instead of giving a critical analysis of historical facts. And this goes way beyond the 4th of July.

Why should Native Americans feel compelled to celebrate Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, or should the Japanese Americans really be expected to rejoice on V-J Day?

At its best, Hip-Hop has been iconoclastic by nature, boldly smashing the false idols of the past and bringing forth new ideas. But the question in 2012 is, in an era when rap artists are being rewarded for being carbon copies of each other and not challenging the status quo, does Hip-Hop still have the heart to challenge historical hype?

Are there still Hip-Hop artists who are willing to buck popular opinion and challenge the fallacy of Independence Day, even if it means standing alone in the face of bitter opposition?

Like Immortal Technique said on “Point of No Return”:

“Universal Truth is not measured in mass appeal.”

TRUTH Minista Paul Scott’s weekly column is “This Ain’t Hip Hop,” a column for intelligent Hip Hop headz. He can be reached at info@nowarningshotsfired.com, on his website, or on Twitter (@truthminista).

  • toreal


  • Dre Thompson

    very good read you make a valid point artist aren’t asserting as much individualism as well as challenging the government ; at the end of the day its all about money man my generation retorted they not tryna here no political important shit look at the backlash lupe got for his obama statements , it is what it is

  • I see what you’re trying to say here but you jump all over the place and don’t really make a clear point by the end of the article.

  • jsj23

    This article should have added a discussion on Juneteenth, an elaboration of both Frederick Douglas’ speech and Dubois’ Double Consciousness (wrought out in Souls of Black Folk) along with a mention of Crispus Attucks, when addressing patriotism, to drive the significance of understanding why this question is important to discuss.  I am a little disappointed.

  • chippc

    “Although not known for political awareness, Southern rappers have also challenged America’s past and present atrocities”
    Being from the south (Texas) this statement stuck out like a sore thumb. Sounds a bit short sided. No Geto Boys, Outkast, UGK, David Banner, Killer Mike, ect???

    • jsj23

      This article is straight crap!

      • chippc

        This article and writer reminds me of Shareef in Menace to Society leaning on the cooler trying to keep fools from drinking. Good concept, wrong approach.

      • Nigga you need to take you salaikum ass off the cooler so I can get me a drink. 

  • chippc

     Most black people are aware of this already. I’m guessing this was written for the youngsters, so i cant knock that. Still confused on what we are supposed to do though on July 4th. Are we supposed to go to work even though the building is not open? Or if we do take the day off, maybe go to the BBQ, sit in the back, refuse to eat, drink, or socialize, and I write a 1000 word essay on black history???

    •  THat’s some funny s#it

    • Leo McNeil

      I would appreciate it if people simply didn’t say “happy 4th of July” to me. Its not a day to celebrate imo. Its just a free day off to chill. I am cool with that.

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  • TruthSerum

    If you wanna miss out on some parties & good food cause of something that happened generations a go, thats your idiotic misfortune.


    I’ll challenge the government by voting against things I dont believe in and answering questions honestly when my kids ask about them, I’m not gonna sit around on the 4th of july while everyone is trying to have fun, whine like a baby and get my crab on because of summin that happened years ago

    And LOL @  Hip Hop challenging the “Authenticity” of a holiday, arent there better things to be rallying against??

    Here is one off the top, The state of Florida is saying its gonna refuse to go along with Brack Obama’s health care tax………IF I HEAR RICK ROSS OR TRICK DADDY SAY ONE WORD ABOUT THE 4TH OF JULY AND NOTHING ABOUT THAT, I HOPE THEY BOTH GET COLON CANCER


    I see its a majority of saltines and a few uncle tom’s
    On here.

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  • Aaron Davis

    Some good points but as blacks living in America, we are still Americans. We have the right to enjoy holidays as much as any1 else. 4th of July more than anything is to celebrate the current freedom that we have as Americans. There are still ppl 2day that are enslaved and dnt enjoy the freedoms & opportunities. Are Mexicans,Puerto-Ricans,Chinese(or other minorites) suppose to not celebrate this holiday also? They werent living here back in 1776…It’s more jus a celebration of freedom dat we have 2day instead of the the actual history behind it. We have a whole month dedicated to our culture, lets not get so hyped up about one day

  • Why does this site always try to take a racist angle about everything.  I hear what you sayin but damn, it’s 2012.  Ain’t nothin gonna stop us from bbq’in and drinkin on that day.  I love my people, but sometimes we need to lighten up and move on with our lives.  People before us fought so that we could be afforded the opportunity to even celebrate anything.  We got a black president, but we still b#tchin.  SMH

    • Tim

       I didn’t read this article because the title already turned me off and made me assume it was ignorant!  This is 2012!!!  The World has been made smaller by advances in technology!  People of all races are inter marrying, and living in the same neighborhoods.   I’m so tired of black people that have a backward way of thinking!  Like John stated, the black people that actually suffered (not you and I on our computers) did so, so that we don’t ask dumb ass questions like the thread title.  It is waaaaay past hiphop, and even something as trivial as the color of your skin.  You are a free man/woman!  Thank God for it.

  • My take is..It is up to you (as an individual) as to what you wanna do on July 4th, whether you want to celebrate it or not.Yes Black people weren’t Free in July 4th 1776 when America declared its Independence but is that a reason not to celebrate the birth of your nation as a black man in July 4th 2012?

    Here’s another…The Constitution was authored and Ratified by white men who obviously didn’t have black people in mind when doing so,but today we all (Americans of all races) enjoy its benefits.(I must mention after black people fought for their rights) through several push for amendments and civil rights movement etc.

    I guess my point is… The journey for black people to be even considered American was not pretty nor easy, we had to fight and we still have to fight (individually or collectively)..but as a black man/woman/child who was born in America you should walk upright with your head up high and feel as American as anybody else, and if you are not treated that way, challenge them (the Shitstem=System as Peter Tosh would say) on their own laws. And that’s where conscious Hip Hop plays a powerful role…..unfortunately the rappers who have the most influence are poisoning the  black youth (mostly) with negativity

    I can do anything I want to do! I am an American too! I know we weren’t free then, but I’m partying and hanging with my family anyway!!! As an American I have rights…. And I be damn if somebody tell me I can’t wear red, white and blue… bust off fire works… fire up some beef on a grill… and get twisted as hell with all my friends and family!!! I been waiting on this for too many months!!! Martin Luther King died for the day I’d be able to sit at a table with all races and guess what I can on the 4th of July!!! Do you think he would be angry I’m here because it’s not the day we were actually free??? Please I did the same thing last month on Juneteenth!!! Not only that I want to celebrate at least one day in the year where race doesn’t matter!!! Juneteenth is about us being freed from slavery, and I never see my white friends celebrate. The 4th is just a day we can be AMERICAN. We all are proud that we made it this far! Our country is like a big family… and families have issues. A lot of issues!!! We can’t continue to sit here and keep dividing ourselves like we been doing. We aren’t as tight as we should be, but we working at it! And hopefully one day we will be. But just like family it’s not perfect. All we can do is keep trying to make it better. You better recognize it’s 2012 bruh…. you missing a lot of opportunities to relax and get your chill on. I’m doing this for our fore-fathers!!! Let their deaths not be in vain! I’m telling you Frederick Douglass won’t trip just because we’re celebrating on the 4th!

    • Casor_Greener

      Yep. Some brothas always want to be bitter


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  • Good look for the youngsters, maybe stimulate their thinking about their own independence.

  • G. Avant

    I’m real glad to see all the black people that think they arrived because the president is black and they can sit next to Billy in school smdh.  The holiday has absolutely nothing to do with people of color, but if you choose to wave your flag around or whatever do your thing.  I’m just not gonna get all hyped about the hypocrisy of America crying independence and human rights, but owning slaves and denying people their humanity.  Who cares how long ago it was, this is what you’re celebrating.

    •  Certainly you can make that argument, the problem is that, it is past its sales date. I think the best place to start is to ask yourself if you are American, if you are NOT, then we can actually have a discussion on American Hypocrisy vis a vis the world in regards to human rights.
      Historical injustice is NOT a reason to pout about the future or present for that matter, instead use that as a motivation for you in the fight on making things better. So please don’t sermonize us about American hypocrisy coz we are cognizant of our history (at least I am)

      (And NO i am not one of the black people who think we’ve “arrived” coz the president is black) I still think there’s alot  of work to be done as far as equality is concert but it is a good indicator.

  • JNice


  • s0rethumb

    As a dumb American that wasn’t taught the metric system nor another language my fourth of July tradition has been to go to Canada preferably a french speaking province. Beer, beef and bullshit holidays ain’t for me…However water floats your Armistad.

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  • rep87

    I wish people would stop Putting all Blacks in one box we all dont celebrate these wack holidays we got Strong Educated Blacks who know the truth bottom line, its dollars being made off holidays its big bizness and to the lame on here speaking about President Obama and white dollars its Rich dollars behind all politicians every time a black man rise up we look for ways to tear them down its racist cowards who do this daily on Fox news , morning with Joe who disrespect This Black President 5 days a week but up hold a filthy rich out of touch candidate like Mitt Rommey a mormon whom they despise as being the next president only because the color of his skin how dumb is that, who got rich by sending jobs over seas , Ever notice nothing positive is ever spoken about black people they take anything negitive and say its all blacks how brain wash can you be to believe this  including this web site AHH some of its writers put out the garbage daily promoting beefs and homo crap fake gang members

  • Herman Lessey


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