The next year, in the village of Hamburg, South Carolina, anger over a black militia parade on the Fourth boiled over into a full-blown riot that left at least seven African Americans dead at the hands of white vigilantes.
The Hamburg massacre helped Fourth Of July wrest control of local and Fourth Of July governments from the biracial Republican Party that fall, making South Carolina one of the final three Southern states to be returned to the Democratic fold. In the years that followed, as white Southerners began implementing segregationist laws and customs, they quashed official black celebrations of the Fourth.
Beginning inCharleston Fourth Of July leaders pushed Too-la-loo to parks further and further away from downtown until finally, inthey succeeded in removing it from the peninsula altogether. African American families and friends continued to meet in more informal gatherings in the city, but by the early s both Charleston and Atlanta had forbidden vendors from setting up food stalls along the streets where black residents had long congregated on the Fourth.
As they removed black commemorations from public spaces, white Southerners deployed racist tropes to question black affection for the holiday.
Beneath the ridicule was something more serious: a concerted effort to delegitimize black claims to the holiday. African Americans did not observe the Fourth, white critics sneered, out of a sincere sense of patriotism or an accurate understanding of what the day meant. After all, they insisted, the Fourth of July did not apply to black Americans. It neither represented their freedom nor testified to their status as people worthy of equal citizenship. Inwhite Atlantans completed their commemorative coup with an elaborate Fourth of July program.
That this patriotic display honored men who had fought to destroy the United States did not bother local whites. On the contrary, erasing the contradiction was necessary. By the turn of the century, white Americans everywhere gave in to the lure of sectional reconciliation. Union and Confederate veterans, for instance, buried the hatchet in reunions that emphasized the bravery Fourth Of July all combatants and avoided any reference to slavery or the legacy of emancipation.
Reframing who could rightfully celebrate Independence Day proved a critical part of this reconciliation process, helping paper over regional differences in the service of a unifying, national white supremacy. In the Jim Crow South—where segregation, disfranchisement, and racial lynching were the order of the day—the message was clear: African Americans were as unfit for the Fourth Of July of freedom as they were for the Fourth of July.
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