got this from a friend...i didn't know the fifth was a holiday of sorts. i should celebrate the fifth and juneteenth b/c i definitely can't get into the fourth like most people do.
Happy Fifth of July, New York!
By LOUISE MIRRER, JAMES OLIVER HORTON and RICHARD RABINOWITZ
Published: July 3, 2005
STANDING before a gathering of the Ladies' Antislavery Society in
Rochester, Frederick Douglass, newspaper editor and internationally known
voice of abolition, moved his audience with the force of his argument. It
was July 5, 1852, the day after the national celebration of American
independence. This former slave confronted a hushed crowd and a nation
with the stunning question: "What, to the American slave, is your Fourth
Douglass followed his question, an indictment of America's commitment to
the value of human freedom in the decades before the Civil War, with an
equally challenging reply: "A day that reveals to him, more than all other
days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the
In the wake of the new federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which allowed
bounty hunters to seize runaway slaves who had fled to states where
slavery was illegal, Douglass spoke bitterly of the betrayal of American
ideals. The law gave those accused of being fugitive slaves no right to a
trial or even to speak in self-defense. It thus endangered the already
precarious liberty of free black people everywhere in the country,
including those in New York State, where slavery had officially ended a
quarter century before in 1827.
Although most people today imagine slavery as a Southern institution, it
existed in all of the original 13 British colonies. In New York, it was an
important labor system for 200 years, beginning with the arrival of the
first African slaves in New Amsterdam in 1627. Recent excavations in Lower
Manhattan that uncovered the African Burial Ground have brought the city's
connection to slavery to public attention. Still, most New Yorkers and
Americans today have little sense of the city's and state's long
involvement with slavery. Public schools teach little of the history of
slavery that, as the historian Ira Berlin has recently remarked,
"insinuated itself into every nook and cranny of life in New York City."
Slavery was central to New York's development from its formative years as
a Dutch and British colony to the early days of the United States. During
British rule, 40 percent of New York City households owned slaves, who
accounted for 20 percent of the city's population. There were more slaves
in New York City than in any other city in the British colonies except
New Yorkers owned and traded in slaves, rented out their slaves as day
laborers and produced ships and trading merchandise for slaving voyages.
Landmarks in Manhattan that were built by slaves include the wall on Wall
Street, Fort Amsterdam in what is now Battery Park, the road that became
Broadway, the first and second Trinity Church buildings and the first city
hall (the Dutch Stadt Huys on Pearl Street).
The story of New York's black population during slavery includes heroes
like the poet Jupiter Hammon and the actor James Hewlett who resisted
injustice even as they produced a rich cultural legacy in the face of
adversity. And New Yorkers - both black and white - fought to erase
slavery from the state. Several prominent New Yorkers, including Aaron
Burr, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, encouraged by Long Island's Quaker
population, formed the New York Manumission Society, the state's first
antislavery club, in 1785, and two years later established the African
Free School in New York City to educate freed slaves.
New York antislavery forces pressured newspapers not to run slave-sale
advertisements and auction houses not to hold slave sales. They also
provided free legal council to slaves seeking to sue their masters for
These efforts bore fruit when the State Legislature enacted a gradual
emancipation law that took effect on July 4, 1799. The law freed all
children born to slave women after July 4, 1799, but only after at least
two decades of forced indenture. Males became free at age 28, and females
at age 25. Until then, they were tied to the service of the mother's
master. Unrestricted freedom did not come to New York's slaves until a new
emancipation law took effect 28 years later, on July 4, 1827.
As that date approached, there was considerable debate among New York's
black residents over how to celebrate abolition of slavery. In March 1827,
two New Yorkers, the Rev. Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm, established
Freedom's Journal, the nation's first black-owned newspaper, and its early
issues resound with this debate. Black New Yorkers worried, among other
things, that a parade on Broadway on the Fourth of July to celebrate
abolition would be disrupted; white revelers often attacked blacks on
In the end, the day after was chosen for the commemoration. And on July 5,
1827, 4,000 blacks marched along Broadway, preceded by an honor guard on
horseback and a grand marshal carrying a drawn sword. The parade wound
through the downtown streets to the African Zion Church, where the
abolitionist leader William Hamilton declared, "This day we stand redeemed
from a bitter thralldom." Celebrations were held around the state. Even
blacks in Boston and Philadelphia celebrated the news from New York. Thus,
both Douglass's speech about the significance of Independence Day to
American slaves and the celebration of slavery's end in New York on July
4, 1827, took place on the fifth.
There are no public celebrations of the fifth today, but as the history of
New York's long involvement in slavery becomes better known to New Yorkers
through lectures, debates, exhibitions and in discussions about the proper
way to memorialize the African Burial Ground, it is fitting to reclaim the
powerful significance of July 4 and 5, 1827, as a holiday of freedom for
all New Yorkers.
By restoring this historical meaning, we acknowledge the role our city and
state played in the institution of slavery. We also honor the
African-Americans who overcame its hardships and injustices to make
important contributions to New York City's cultural life, as did other
immigrants who came here more willingly.
We are the heirs of July 4, treasuring - as Douglass did - the vision of
independence set forth in Philadelphia in 1776. But we are also the heirs
of July 5, which recognizes the evolution of human freedom in our state.