Independence Daze - Backstory with the American History Guys
The History Guys explore the origins and curiosities of July Fourth Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Everybody knows that July Fourth celebrates our nation’s beginnings. But for the first 94 years of our existence, the Fourth wasn’t an official holiday at all. The Declaration of Independence itself sat untended in a dusty archive for 150 years. So how did Independence Day become the holiest day on our secular calendar? And why do we observe it with hot dogs, fireworks and mattress sales?
In this hour, the History Guys explore the origins and curiosities of July Fourth. They reveal the holiday’s radical roots, and look how the Declaration’s meaning has changed over time. They also consider how the Declaration’s messages about liberty and equality have been embraced by the descendants of slaves. And as always, they take calls from BackStory listeners looking to the past to understand the America of today.
- Historian Pauline Maier (American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence) contrasts the sections of the Declaration of Independence that mattered to the Founders with the sections that matter today.
- July 4th chronicler James Heintze (The Fourth of July Encyclopedia) recounts the early days of celebrating independence, with a special focus on explosives.
- Historian David Blight (Frederick Douglass’ Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee) analyzes Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro,” widely known as one of the greatest Abolitionist speeches ever.