Metro Louisville

As protests for police accountability and racial justice continue in Louisville, Democratic officials who represent the city took a few minutes Saturday morning to read and remember the Declaration of Independence.

Metro Councilwoman Paula McCraney (D-7), a Black woman, said we are celebrating Independence Day against the backdrop of crisis.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its assault on our nation and our world, we have embarked on a national reckoning of racial equity following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and all of the Blacks who have lost their lives to unjustly causes in this country” she said. “We believe that reckoning could benefit from the nuanced principles laid out in the founding document we call the Declaration of Independence.”

Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers in May. Taylor was killed by Louisville police officers in March. Both were Black, and news of their deaths inspired nationwide protests as well as some reforms.

The Declaration held that all Americans are equal, and all are entitled to the right to liberty, McCraney noted.

But when the colonies sought to break free of British rule, those values were not applied to all.

The Emancipation Proclamation that decreed freedom for some enslaved people came 87 years after Americans declared independence. And it was 57 years later in 1920 that women gained the right to vote.

To some, including Black Councilman-elect Jecorey Arthur (D-4), that history is inextricable from the Fourth of July holiday.

“By a show of hands, how many of you have gone to a birthday party? By a show of hands, how many of you have gone to a birthday party that you were never invited to?” he said before reading a section of the Declaration. “‘Cause as an American descendant of slavery, that’s what the Fourth of July feels like every single year.”

Virginia Woodward, who chairs the Louisville Democratic Party, said the country must continue to strive for equality and justice for all.

“We are not a perfect union, but I think rereading the words, listening to them and knowing how they echo through time, it is important,” she said.

Listen to the reading in the player below.

 

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.