Yesterday was the Fourth of July, the date we celebrate as the anniversary of the day our founding fathers declared that the United States of America was a free and independent nation, no longer under the control of the king of England. But the day the Continental Congress decided to declare independence was July 2, 1776. That was the day on which the 56 delegates to the Second Continental Congress at Independence Hall in Philadelphia authorized the Congress to approve the declaration. John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress at the time, was only person to sign the Declaration on July 4, 1776. Legend has it that Hancock signed his name so large because he wanted to make sure that “fat old King George” could read it without his spectacles. One result is that today, the term “John Hancock” has come to mean a person’s signature.
The majority of the signers of the declaration of independence, 41 of 56, were slave owners. One was Patrick Henry, famous for saying, “Give me liberty or give me death.” At the time of his death, he owned 67 slaves.
As Americans, we need to remember that our country, without question the greatest in the world, is not without its flaws. Even today the fallout of slavery remains with us in the form of prejudice that prevents Blacks from attaining equal status with Whites.
We still have a way to go in “forming a more perfect union,” as the preamble to the Constitution, drafted in 1787, puts it. That’s a project all of us need work on together.