The Multiple Dates of "Independence Day"

Posted 6/29/2020

July 4th, 1776: Independence Day – The tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th, or Independence Day, a federal holiday; in 1941, the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees. However, John Adams considered July 2 the day when Americans declared their independence. Here’s why.

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. The Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. They’d been working on it for a couple of days after the draft was submitted on July 2nd and finally agreed on all of the edits and changes. 

Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777, while Congress was still occupied with the ongoing war. The tradition of setting off fireworks on the 4 of July began in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, during the first organized celebration of Independence Day. 

This year, another Independence Day celebration has been brought out in to the light and given more attention. Juneteenth: Black American’s True Independence Day. And as Opal Lee states below in her interview with NatGeo, it’s important to celebrate freedom every step of the way. 

Juneteenth: Black Americans’ True Independence Day. Juneteenth (June Nineteenth) marks the day enslaved African Americans in Galveston Bay, Texas, were notified of their freedom. Texas was the last state to free enslaved African Americans. This was 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. It’s celebrated as the end of U.S. chattel slavery and our nation’s second independence day. 

NatGeo spoke with Opal Lee, 93, who saw major success this year in her decades-old campaign to make Juneteenth a national holiday. “We’re gonna go through struggle after struggle until we come to the Promised Land. You gotta have some hope, because hopelessness wears you out, it drains you,” Lee told Rachel Jones for Nat Geo. “Even though there’s still much work to be done, we have to celebrate the freedom that we have. That’s what Juneteenth is about: celebrating freedom each step of the way.”

July 4th trivia. You can find the answers to these questions, and many more, by clicking here.

  • Where was George Washington when the Declaration of Independence was written?
  • What is written on the back of the Declaration of Independence?
  • How many people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4?

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