Independence Day: July 4th

Happy birthday America! From the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, to picnics, parades, and fireworks, take a patriotic tour through the collections and reflect upon the meaning of liberty and equality and our journey to create a more perfect union.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

— Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a keynote address at an Independence Day celebration and asked, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" Frederick Douglass emphasized that the history of American freedom cannot be separated from American slavery. Experience the moving words of Frederick Douglass with Smithsonian Folkways. A powerful reading of the address by actor and activist Ossie Davis brings the speech to life.