SANDERS: July 2 is important date in history

Published 8:08 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Some dates reflect power. It seems that powerful things happen on the same date over and over down through generations. These happenings sometimes change countries, sometimes change a people and sometimes change the world. July 2 is one such date.

The first happening was the Declaration of Independence. The first Declaration of Independence Resolution was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. The 13 American colonies declared their independence of Great Britain. They were sick and tired of the oppression wreaked upon them by the king and his minions. They declared No more. No more. No more. Some even declared, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

John Adams, who subsequently became President of this country, declared that July 2 would be celebrated as “The most memorable epoch in American history.” However, Thomas Jefferson edited the Declaration of Independence resolution, and the Second Continental Congress readopted it on July 4, 1776. July 4 went down in history while July 2 was virtually forgotten.

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The second happening was in the Caribbean. The slave ship Amistad was on its way from Havana, Cuba to Puerto Principe, Cuba. On July 2, 1839, 53 enslaved persons recently captured in Africa were determined to seize their freedom. Led by Sengbe Pieh, known as Cinque, they rose up early on this stormy morning and seized the slave ship. They tried to sail back to Africa but ended up off the coast of Connecticut. They were captured and imprisoned. But the story did not end there.

With the help of Northern abolitionists, they fought for their freedom in the United States District Court. The United States Constitution had ended the Atlantic Slave Trade in 1808. While they waited for trial, Cinque learned to speak English. At the trial of the Amistad Warriors, Cinque testified that they were recently brought from Africa. They won a great court victory. The case was appealed to a higher district court. They won again. Then President Martin Van Buren and others appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court. Representative John Quincy Adams, who had served as President from 1825 to 1829, argued the case before the Supreme Court. The Amistad warriors won again. The third happening occurred on July 2, 1964. That’s when President Lyndon Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It ended nearly a century of official segregation that was extremely oppressive. This segregation prohibited Black people from looking white people in the eye, talking back to them, using the same restrooms, drinking from the same public water fountains, eating in the same restaurants, sleeping in the same hotels/motels, attending the same schools, interacting on any social level and so much more. It was enforced by a myriad of laws, pervasive violence and state sanctioned terrorism in the form of public lynching.

Black people were sick and tired of the oppression. They fought in the courts, winning the Brown v. Board of Education case that outlawed separate schools. They fought with their pocketbooks, boycotting segregated buses in Montgomery. They fought with their bodies, sitting in at lunch counters in the face of brazen violence. They fought with their lives. Black people and others standing with them were seized with the liberty spirit. President Lyndon Johnson reacted to the spirit manifested through powerful protests. He had grown up in Texas where he observed the oppression first hand. In response to the waves of protests by black people and others and in response to the horrific violence, he pushed the 1964 Civil Rights Act through Congress. He signed it on July 2, the same date that the Declaration of Independence was first declared to the world.