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How Black Americans Co-opted the Fourth of July

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Like all symbols of American patriotism, the Fourth of July has meant different things at different times and places. In Memphis in the first decades after the Civil War, Brian D. Page writes, it was a distinctly Black holiday.

Page begins his story in June of 1862 when U.S. forces took and occupied Memphis. Soon, many formerly enslaved Black people streamed into the city. Its Black population rose from 3,882 in 1860 to 15,525 in 1870. The Army garrisoned Black soldiers in the city, to the consternation of many white residents. The Memphis Daily Avalanche warned in 1866 that the stationing of Black soldiers “corrupts the whole Negro population of the South; it puts before their eyes a picture of their race, which raises their expectations above all reason and discontents them with the plain tasks of labor.”

Many white Memphis residents associated the Fourth of July with the Confederacy’s defeat and the Black soldiers there. In 1869, one local paper reported that the holiday was celebrated “only by our Germans and our colored citizens.”

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Click the link below for article:

https://daily.jstor.org

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