Independence Daze: A History of July Fourth


Displays of fireworks over the Washington Monument. *Image credit.

Before you head out to the beach for your Fourth of July picnic, take a few minutes to listen to Independence Daze: A History of July Fourth (website, iTunes), the latest episode of BackStory (website, iTunes).

There’s a lot of food for thought for your Independence Day picnic.

Early in the show, host Peter Onuf interviews MIT historian Pauline Maier about how the meaning of the Declaration of Independence has changed through the generations. (Did you know that the first July 4 celebrations were protest demonstrations pitting the Jeffersonians against the Federalists? Up until the 1790s the most important national holiday was George Washington’s birthday.)

In the grand finale, Yale historian David Blight describes the great 1852 Independence Day speech by abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass. An actor reads the actual speech in the background while Blight narrates. The reenactment was so good it gave me goosebumps.

Related posts:

*Image credit. Wikipedia. Public domain.
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