On July 4th, many of us gather for traditional Independence Day celebrations. While the origins of many holidays can get lost over time, most people connect to the reference of July 4th as the Day of Independence….the day on which the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, largely written by Thomas Jefferson.
However, as we are aware, the declaration, which outlined the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, was very limited in scope. At the time, the founders did not see all people as endowed with these rights, only white land-owning men. The history of our nation has become an unfolding story of reckoning with this initially limited scope of freedom. It has been and continues to be a source of battle and discourse in our homes, on the streets in our neighborhoods, at our borders, in our workplaces, in governmental offices, in prisons, (the list could go on and on), and in the hearts and minds of all of us as we continue to deliberate about what it means to be free and which freedoms should be protected.
Since many of us may be more focused this weekend on the burgers and hot dogs (veggie dog and impossible burger now added to the tradition!), here is some additional food for thought… A Freedom timeline constructed by my highly conscious Gen Z daughter, Naomi Laver, who is fully engaged in questioning what freedom means and who has or not been invited to enjoy the national dream of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness.
Please engage… What dates would you add? What dates do you hope to soon be able to add? What dates and freedom markers are desperately needed? Naomi offers some of her suggestions at the end.
Timeline of dates when progress was made to advance freedom and independence
January 1st, 1863 — President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation
June 19th, 1865 — Junetheenth — The last of the enslaved people in Texas were freed
December 6th, 1865 — The 13th Amendment was ratified abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude
July 9th, 1868 — The 14th Amendment was ratified granting citizenship to all persons (male) born or naturalized in the United States—including former slaves—and guaranteed all citizens “equal protection of the laws.”
February 3rd, 1870 — The 15th Amendment was ratified granting African American men the right to vote
August 18th, 1920 — The 19th Amendment was ratified granting women the right to vote
June 2nd, 1924 — Congress enacted the Indian Citizenship Act granting citizenship to all Native Americans born in the US (their right to vote was governed by state law until 1957 and some states barred Native Americans from voting)
March 29th, 1961 — 23rd Amendment was ratified extending voting rights in presidential elections to residents of Washington D.C.
January 23rd, 1964 — 24th Amendment was ratified prohibiting conditioning the right to vote in federal elections on payment of a poll tax or other types of tax which were in place to stop African Americans and poor people from voting
July 2nd, 1964 — The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, legally ending Jim Crow laws.
August 6th, 1965 — President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which prohibits racial discrimination in voting
June 30th, 1968 — The Immigration and Nationality Act went into effect. The law abolished the National Origins Formula which had been the basis of US immigration policy since the 1920s. The act removed de facto discrimination against South and Eastern Europeans, Asians, and other non-Northwestern European ethnic groups from American immigration policy
April 2nd, 1974 — Kathy Kozachenko was elected to the Ann Arbor City Council, the first openly gay or lesbian candidate to run successfully for political office in the U.S.
June 15th, 2012 — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was announced by President Barack Obama allowing some undocumented individuals who came into the United States as children to be granted temporary permission to stay in the U.S.
June 26th, 2015 — Gay marriage legalized in all 50 states by the Supreme Court
Work yet to be done; dates yet to be added…
- When will we abolish cash bail, a system which keeps the poor in jail while the rich can go home after being arrested for the same crime?
- When will we stop arresting black people and people of color at disproportionately high rates and charging them with much more severe punishments than white people who are charged with the same or worse crimes?
- When will we pay women the same as men for doing the very same jobs?
- When will we release the hundreds of thousands of immigrants being detained and abused by ICE?
- When will law enforcement, which is supposed to protect us, stop murdering black people in the streets and in their homes?
- When will respect for the original peoples of this nation be restored and reparations be made for the harms inflicted?
- When will we own up to the savagery of slavery and say we are sorry.
- When will all people be treated equally in the United States regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, age, disabilities, religion, or anything else that makes a person human?
- When will all people in the United States truly be free? When will all people in the United States truly be included in ‘liberty and justice for all’?
What dates would you add to this timeline of freedoms?
What dates do you hope will be added in the future?