8 Famous Figures Born on the Fourth of July

8 Famous Figures Born on the Fourth of July

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1. Calvin Coolidge

While the Fourth of July saw the death of three of the first five U.S. presidents—John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1826 and James Monroe in 1831—Calvin Coolidge was the only chief executive born on Independence Day. The 30th president was born on July 4, 1872, in the small hamlet of Plymouth Notch, Vermont. While serving as vice president, Coolidge was at the family homestead in the early morning hours of August 3, 1923, when the shocking news of the sudden death of President Warren G. Harding arrived. By the light of a kerosene lamp in the family’s parlor, Coolidge’s father administered the oath of office to his son.

2. Nathaniel Hawthorne

The famed American novelist was born Nathaniel Hathorne on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts. Throughout his youth, the writer was haunted by the leading role played by his great-great-grandfather, John Hathorne, in the Salem witch trials. Ashamed of his family history, the author of “The Scarlet Letter” added a “w” to his last name to disassociate himself from a figure of whom he wrote was “so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him.”

3. Stephen Foster

The renowned American songwriter was born exactly 50 years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1826, in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania. The “father of American music” wrote more than 200 songs, and tunes such as “Oh! Susanna,” “Camptown Races,” “Old Folks at Home” (better known as “Swanee River”) and “My Old Kentucky Home” remain popular today. Although many of Stephen Foster’s songs are associated with the South, the composer visited the region only once during his life. In spite of his success, sheet music publishers pocketed most of the profits from his songs, and Foster died in the charity ward of New York’s Bellevue Hospital at the age of 37.

4. Rube Goldberg

Born in San Francisco on July 4, 1883, Rube Goldberg studied engineering at the University of California and designed sewer pipes for the city of San Francisco before taking a job as a newspaper cartoonist. Goldberg frequently lampooned society’s obsession with technology, and his most famous creation was the cartoon character Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, who concocted unnecessarily complicated contraptions to perform simple tasks. The cartoonist became so connected with these overdesigned machines that he is one of the few people whose name is not only a noun, but an adjective as well. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Rube Goldberg” as “doing something simple in a very complicated way that is not necessary.” Often overlooked is that Goldberg won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for his editorial cartoons.

5. George Steinbrenner

Bombastic New York Yankees owner George Michael Steinbrenner III was born into a wealthy shipping family on July 4, 1930, near Cleveland, Ohio. Steinbrenner joined the family business in 1957 and grew it so substantially that he was able to head an investment group that bought baseball’s most famous franchise for less than $10 million in 1973. Although he initially pledged to “stick to building ships,” the man nicknamed “the Boss” proved to be a hands-on owner who spent freely and clashed repeatedly with players, executives and managers. Until Steinbrenner’s death in 2010, the Yankees won seven World Series championships and 11 American League pennants under his ownership.

6. Ron Kovic

Best known from Tom Cruise’s portrayal of him in the 1989 movie “Born on the Fourth of July,” Vietnam veteran and anti-war activist Ron Kovic was born in Wisconsin on July 4, 1946. Kovic joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from high school and was deployed in 1965 to fight in the Vietnam War. On his second tour of duty in 1968, Kovic was leading an attack when he was struck by enemy fire and left paralyzed from the chest down. After returning home to the United States, Kovic became a peace activist and an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and the poor conditions inside America’s veterans’ hospitals. Kovic’s best-selling autobiography, “Born on the Fourth of July,” was published in 1976 and adapted into the film that captured two Academy Awards.

7. Ann Landers

Born in Sioux City, Iowa, on July 4, 1918, Esther “Eppie” Lederer was better known to millions of Americans by her pseudonym, Ann Landers. The journalist penned a gossip column for her college newspaper but received her big break by winning a contest in 1955 to succeed the late Chicago Sun-Times advice columnist Ruth Crowley as the author of the “Ask Ann Landers” feature. Syndicated in more than 1,000 newspapers over the course of nearly 50 years, Ann Landers became one of North America’s best-known advice columnists, although she faced competition from an unlikely source, her twin sister also born on the Fourth of July, Pauline Phillips, who wrote the Dear Abby advice column. The two sisters—who had attended the same college and held a joint marriage ceremony—had a lengthy estrangement as a result of their newspaper rivalry.

8. Geraldo Rivera

Born on July 4, 1943, in New York City, the television personality first served as an investigator with the New York City Police Department before entering law school. While practicing law in New York, Geraldo Rivera was offered a job as a television reporter by the local ABC affiliate. His undercover reports exposing the neglect and abuse of patients with intellectual disabilities at New York’s Willowbrook School earned him national attention and spots on ABC’s national news programs. As host of “Good Night America” in 1975, Rivera broadcast the Zapruder Film, which captured the assassination of John F. Kennedy, for the first time on national television. His infamous 1986 broadcast of the opening of gangster Al Capone’s vault yielded only a few broken bottles and no hidden loot. After hosting a daytime talk show for more than a decade, Rivera joined the Fox News Channel in 2001.

Famous Deaths on July 4

Thomas Jefferson

1826 Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States(1801-09), dies at 83

James Monroe

Karl Ferdinand von Graefe

1840 Karl Ferdinand von Graefe, German surgeon who helped create modern plastic surgery dies at 53

    Francois Rene de Chateaubriand, French novelist (Atala), dies at 79 William Kirby, English entomologist and original member of the Linnean Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society, dies at 90 Martin-Joseph Mengal, composer, dies at 67 Karl Friedrich Eichhorn, German jurist, dies at 72 Istvan Ferenczi, Hungarian sculptor, dies at 64

Marie Curie

1934 Marie Curie, Polish-French scientist who discovered radium and the 1st woman to win a Nobel Prize (1903, 1911), dies at 66

    Otto Bauer, Austrian Social Democrat, dies at 56 Suzanne Lenglen, French tennis player (French C'ships 1925-26, Wimbledon 1919-23, 25), dies of anemia at 39 Antoni Łomnicki, Polish mathematician (b. 1881) Władysław Sikorski, Polish World War II general and Prime Minister of Poland in exile (1939-43), killed in a plane crash at 62 Othenio Able, Austrian artist, fossil creator and founder of paleobiology, dies at 71 Gerda Steinhoff, Nazi concentration camp overseer (b. 1922) Monteiro Lobato, Brazilian writer (b. 1882) William C. Fownes Jr, American golfer and administrator (US Amateur C'ship 1910 President US Golf Ass'n 1926-27), dies at 72 Walter Long, American actor (Moby-Dick, Sheik, Sea Devils, Dragnet Patrol), dies at 73 Gregory Lafayette (19) dies from injuries sustained in a car crash that killed his wife, actress Judy Tyler (24), the day earlier Adolf Herckenrath, Flemish playwright/poet (Avondvlam), dies at 79 William Franklin "Frank" Smith, American actor (Cowboy & Bandit, Scarlet Car, Frontier Days), dies of lung cancer at 83 Rex Bell [George Francis Beldam], American cowboy actor (Cowboys & Injuns) and 21st Lieutenant Governor of Nevada, dies from a heart attack at 58 Fritz Reutter, German composer, dies at 66 Grant Richards, actor (Doug-Doorway to Danger), dies at 48 Bernard Freyberg, Governor-General of New Zealand (b. 1889) Dorothy Aldis, American children's writer, dies at 70 Harold Vanderbilt, American yachtsman and America's Cup winner (1930, 34, 37), dies at 85 Barnett Newman, American abstract expressionist painter (Black Fire I), dies at 65 Don McPherson, American R&B singer (The Main Ingredient) dies of leukemia at 29

Barry White

2003 Barry White, American singer (Love's Theme), dies at 58

8 Famous Figures Born on the Fourth of July - HISTORY

The most remarkable Independence Day oration in American history was not given on the Fourth of July. And it is little remembered today. But it deserves to be, especially given the searing events in Charleston, South Carolina, last month. Independence Day is rightly a time to celebrate the nation's history and even kick back for a little R&R. But the best orators who have marked the day have understood that our nation's laurels are not meant to be rested on.

Fourth of July speeches tend to divide into two sorts. The predominant variety is commemorative, celebratory, and prescriptive--solemnized, as John Adams predicted in 1776, "with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other."

But in his exuberance, Adams failed to anticipate that the Fourth, as it brought Americans together, would continually threaten to tear them apart. Over the years, celebrations of the Fourth have become a periodic tug of war between commemorations designed to affirm and even enforce the common identity of Americans--out of many, one--and subversive pushback from those obstreperous enough to insist the we are not all free, emphatically not all equal, and certainly not one.

Once the United States had gained its independence, some Americans questioned whether celebrating the Fourth was too much trouble and it took decades for the revels to pick up steam. But by the Declaration's 50th anniversary, celebrations commonly included the firing of artillery at sunrise, the marching of volunteer companies, the ringing of church bells, and the parading of labor associations. By the centennial in 1876, the event had reached its apogee. Flags and bunting decorated homes and streets, while Philadelphia, birthplace of the nation, stretched its celebrations across four days, beginning on July 1. In Independence Square, the poet Bayard Taylor evoked Columbia, goddess of liberty, in a newly composed National Ode that was apostrophic enough to induce a case of the vapors. "For lo! she cometh now / With hope on the lip and pride on the brow."

Walt Whitman, who should have been tapped for the job but wasn't, had years earlier taken the measure of such effusions:

O the orator's joys!
To inflate the chest, to roll the thunder of the voice
out from ribs and throat,
To make the people rage, weep, hate, desire, with yourself,
To lead America--to quell America with a great tongue.

Lead by quelling: Such was the order of the day in 1876. As Bayard Taylor put it, "Let no iconoclast / Invade thy rising Pantheon of the Past."

But even in self-congratulatory Philadelphia, not every iconoclast was quelled. Suffrage advocate Susan B. Anthony and several younger colleagues had managed to get into the square. After the Declaration of Independence was read to the multitudes, as the band struck up an anthem, Anthony and her followers rose and approached the speaker's platform, carrying copies of a Declaration of Rights, including provocative "Articles of Impeachment" they had drawn up against "our rulers"--men--for denying women the right to vote or serve on juries and restricting them from full participation in the American democracy in many other ways. "The history of our country the past hundred years," it proclaimed, "has been a series of assumptions and usurpations of power over women."

Anthony was unsure whether her unannounced appearance would be blocked, but the men on the platform gave way with instinctive deference and she sailed right up to Thomas Ferry, president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate and effectively Ulysses Grant's vice president. As she presented her document, Ferry bowed, white-faced with alarm. The ladies then retreated, handing out copies to many outstretched hands, while the military officer overseeing the event cried, "Order! Order!"

Anthony did not read her piece aloud, however, and accounts of her demonstration were buried or omitted so completely in newspaper reports that she might as well have vacationed in Omaha. The manifesto would have made a sensational oration, but that was not to be.

The speech that deserves our notice, and did truly thunder, came not at the centennial but a quarter of a century earlier, in Rochester, New York, on July 5, 1852. Rochester was the epicenter of the so-called burned-over district, a region along the Erie Canal swept repeatedly by religious revivals and reform. There, the former slave and ardent abolitionist Frederick Douglass published his newspaper the North Star. Douglass was a good friend of Susan B. Anthony, whose family farm was located on Rochester's outskirts. His paper had been one of the few to support the women's rights convention in nearby Seneca Falls, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1848.

So it was natural enough that the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester asked Douglass to provide an oration for Independence Day. Since the Fourth that year fell on a Sunday, commemorations were held a day later. That suited Douglass perfectly, as African Americans had been celebrating the Fourth a day later for over two decades. Many blacks found the idea of joining in the festivities problematic at best, so long as white Americans continued to keep millions of slaves in chains. In any case, white revelers on the Fourth had a history of disrupting black processions. Many blacks made July 5 their holiday instead.

Though he was a newspaper publisher, Douglass believed that the spoken word remained the most effective way to move multitudes. As a boy he had secretly studied rhetoric and parsed the speeches of famous orators, though his first efforts at public speaking were modest. "It was with the utmost difficulty that I could stand erect," he recalled, "or that I could command and articulate two words without hesitation and stammering." Confidence came with time and practice.

Douglass also possessed a sense of humor--"of the driest kind," observed one listener. "You can see it coming a long way off in a peculiar twitch of his mouth." Occasionally he dramatized conversations to make a point, provoking laughter when he mimicked the drawl of a Southern planter.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton vividly recalled the first time she heard Douglass address a crowd. He stood over 6 feet tall, "like an African prince, majestic in his wrath. Around him sat the great antislavery orators of the day, earnestly watching the effect of his eloquence on that immense audience, that laughed and wept by turns, completely carried away by the wondrous gifts of his pathos and humor. On this occasion, all the other speakers seemed tame after Frederick Douglass."

In Rochester, Douglass stalked his largely white audience with exquisite care, taking them by stealth. He began by providing what many listeners might not have expected from a notorious abolitionist: a fulsome paean to the Fourth and the founding generation. The day brought forth "demonstrations of joyous enthusiasm," he told them, for the signers of the Declaration were "brave men. They were great men too--great enough to give fame to a great age." Jefferson's very words echoed in Douglass's salute: "Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country &hellip "

Your fathers. That pronoun signaled the slightest shift in the breeze. But Douglass continued cordially. "Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do." Then another step back: "That is a branch of knowledge in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your speaker."

Now the dry humor was edging into view: accompanied, no doubt, by that peculiar twist of the mouth. As a people, Americans were never shy about proclaiming "the facts which make in their favor," Douglass noted indeed, bragging about their reputation was often deemed a national virtue. It might equally be accounted a national vice, he continued slyly but in deference to that habit, he pledged to leave any further praise of the Revolution to "other gentlemen whose claim to have been regularly descended [from the Founding Fathers] will be less likely to be disputed than mine!"

Then he got to the point. It was all well and good to sing the praises of past heroes but his business, Douglass insisted, "if I have any here to-day, is with the present." Those who praised the hard-won deeds of the founders had no right to do so unless they too were ready to work for the cause of liberty. "You have no right to wear out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cover your indolence."

Then he threw down one question after another, each white-hot as a brand from the burning: "Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? . This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?"

Even the stoutest anti-slavery advocate must have quailed. Many in the audience, Douglass noted, would no doubt have preferred him to act less as an agitator and more as rational persuader. But what reasoned argument remained to be made? "Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? . To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding."

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? .

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation's ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.

Yet for all these justly heaped coals of fire, Douglass's peroration also offered hope. "I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery." He embraced once more "the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions"--no doubt because, like Whitman, he wished "to lead America"--to make the people rage, weep, and hate the injustices that to him seemed so clear and to desire the extension of freedom to all Americans.

His task must have seemed nearly hopeless at a time when the new Fugitive Slave Act, put in place by the Compromise of 1850, allowed Southern planters to pursue runaway slaves in the free states--slaves like him--and even forced Northerners to aid in that pursuit. As a devout Christian, it particularly galled Douglass that so many Northern ministers refused to join the abolitionist cause. So in reading his words, we must understand that it was not merely a facile rhetorical device when he asked listeners whether they meant to mock him, in asking him to deliver an Independence Day oration. In a sense, deep in his bones, he was truly offended.

Yet he did deliver the address, in a manner fiery and uncompromising yet patriotic and uplifting. Has there ever been another Independence Day speech to match it?

In the end, the promise of the Declaration could not be delivered without force of arms. The contradictions between freedom and slavery were etched so deeply into the nation that no orator's tongue could resolve them. Still, Douglass called down the storm, whirlwind, and earthquake in the attempt, and his oration deserves a place of honor in the American canon. It would please the wrathful prince to receive the recognition that is his due though he would surely be careful to accept it only through faintly pursed lips. And then, with that tight smile, he might wonder if we too would be rash enough to ask him to speak on our Fourth.

What would he say? Insist, no doubt, that we not merely enshrine the deeds of the Revolution under glass: "We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future." Celebrating the deeds of our forefathers is a hollow sham if we fail to ask how we can work to extend the Declaration's ideals in our own time. The protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the riots in Baltimore, and the shooting in a Charleston sanctuary all demonstrate that true freedom and equality remain works in progress.

But along with censure Douglass might offer hope: that the deeds and principles of the past, when set beside the tragedies of the present, might inspire a way forward. The shock and revulsion brought on by the Charleston shootings, combined with the magnanimity and forbearance of the victims' families, have pushed a wide swath of the American public to reconsider the meaning of potent political symbols that have loomed so long over the national debate on liberty, equality, and race. Douglass never gave up hope that the spoken word could turn minds and hearts--on the Fourth of July as well as on the fifth. Neither should we.

Patriotic Quotes From the Famous

Over the decades and centuries, famous figures have spoken eloquently about patriotism. Following are some of their best quotes.

Love of Country

Erma Bombeck: "You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism."

Daniel Webster: "May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country!"

Hamilton Fish: "If our country is worth dying for in time of war let us resolve that it is truly worth living for in time of peace."

Benjamin Franklin: "Where liberty dwells, there is my country."

John F. Kennedy: "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

Freedom and Liberty

Elmer Davis: "This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave."

Joseph Addison: "Let freedom never perish in your hands."

Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed - else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die."

George Bernard Shaw: "Liberty is the breath of life to nations."

Ralph Waldo Emerson: "For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail?"

Thomas Paine: "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."

Thomas Paine: "In a chariot of light from the region of the day, / The Goddess of Liberty came / She brought in her hand as a pledge of her love, / The plant she named Liberty Tree." / "He that would make his own liberty ​secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition for if he violates this duty / he establishes a precedent that will reach himself."

Harry Emerson Fosdick: "Liberty is always dangerous, but it is the safest thing we have."

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. / Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. / Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! / Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! / Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! / But not only that let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! / Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! / Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. / From every mountainside, let freedom ring."

Franklin D. Roosevelt: "The winds that blow through the wide sky in these mounts, the winds that sweep from Canada to Mexico, from the Pacific to the Atlantic - have always blown on free men."

John F. Kennedy: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty."

Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address, 1863: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Lee Greenwood: "And I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me."

United and Wise

Oliver Wendell Holmes: "One flag, one land, one heart, one hand, One Nation evermore!"

Gerald Stanley Lee: "America is a tune. It must be sung together."

John Dickinson: "Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! / By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall."

Hubert H. Humphrey: "We need an America with the wisdom of experience. But we must not let America grow old in spirit."

Musings on Patriotism

James G. Blaine: "The United States is the only country with a known birthday."

George Santayana: "A man's feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world."

Bill Vaughan: "A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works."

Adlai Stevenson: "America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact—the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality."

John Quincy Adams: "All men profess honesty as long as they can. To believe all men honest would be folly. To believe none so is something worse."

Paul Sweeney: "How often we fail to realize our good fortune in living in a country where happiness is more than a lack of tragedy."

Aurora Raigne: "America, for me, has been the pursuit and catching of happiness."

Woodrow Wilson: "The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation."


The film opens in 1956 Massapequa, New York, with a 10-year-old Ron Kovic playing with his friends in a forest. On his Fourth of July birthday, he attends an Independence Day parade with his family and best friend Donna. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy's televised inaugural address inspires a teenage Ron to join the United States Marine Corps. After attending an impassioned lecture by two Marine recruiters visiting his high school, he enlists. His decision receives support from his mother, but upsets his father, a World War II veteran. Ron goes to his prom, and dances with Donna before leaving for basic training.

In October 1967, Ron is now a Marine sergeant on a reconnaissance mission in Vietnam, during his second tour of duty. He and his unit kill a number of Vietnamese villagers after mistaking them for enemy combatants. After encountering enemy fire, they flee the village and abandon its sole survivor, a crying baby. During the retreat, Ron accidentally kills Wilson, a young private in his platoon. He reports the action to his superior, who ignores the claim and advises him not to say anything else. In January 1968, Ron is critically wounded during a firefight, but is rescued by a fellow Marine. Paralyzed from the mid-chest down, he spends several months in recovery at the Bronx Veterans Hospital in New York. The hospital's conditions are poor the doctors and nurses ignore patients, abuse drugs, and operate using old equipment. Against his doctors' requests, Ron desperately tries to walk again with the use of braces and crutches, only to damage his legs and confine himself permanently to a wheelchair.

In 1969, Ron returns home and turns to alcohol after feeling increasingly neglected and disillusioned. During an Independence Day parade, Ron is asked to give a speech, but is unable to finish after he hears a crying baby in the crowd and has a flashback to Vietnam. Ron visits Donna in Syracuse, New York, where the two reminisce. While attending a vigil for the victims of the Kent State shootings, they are separated when Donna and other protestors are taken away by police for demonstrating against the Vietnam War.

In Massapequa, a drunken Ron has a heated argument with his mother, and his father decides to send him to Villa Dulce (The Sweet Villa), a Mexican haven for wounded Vietnam veterans. He has his first sexual encounter with a prostitute, whom he falls for until he sees her with another customer. Ron befriends Charlie, another paraplegic, and the two decide to travel to another village after getting kicked out of a bar. After annoying their taxicab driver, they are stranded on the side of the road and argue with each other. They are picked up by a truck driver who takes them back to Villa Dulce.

Ron travels to Armstrong, Texas, where he discovers Wilson's tombstone. He then visits the fallen soldier's family in Georgia to confess his guilt. Wilson's widow Jamie expresses that she is unable to forgive Ron, while her parents are more sympathetic. In 1972, Ron joins the organization Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and travels to the Republican National Convention in Miami, Florida. As Richard Nixon is giving an acceptance speech for his presidential nomination, Ron expresses to a news reporter his hatred for the war and the government for abandoning the American people. His comments enrage Nixon supporters, and his interview is cut short when police attempt to remove and arrest him and other protestors. Ron and the veterans manage to break free from the officers, regroup, and charge the hall again, though not successfully. In 1976, Ron delivers a public address at the Democratic National Convention in New York City, following the publication of his autobiography.

    as Sergeant Ron Kovic as Charlie as Donna as Mr. Kovic as Steve Boyer as Timmy as Mrs. Kovic
  • Cordelia Gonzalez as Maria Elena - Villa Dulce as Legion Commander as Marine Major - Vietnam as Vet #3 - Villa Dulce as Madame - Villa Dulce as Coach - Massapequa as Billy Vorsovich as Doctor #1 - Veterans Hospital as Martinez - Vietnam
  • Richard Panebianco as Joey Walsh as Susanne Kovic as Lieutenant - Vietnam as Speaker - Syracuse as Tommy Kovic
  • Bruce MacVittie as Patient #2 - Veterans Hospital as Jamie Wilson as Patient #1 - Veterans Hospital as Vet #2 - Villa Dulce as Vet #1 - Villa Dulce
  • Bryan Larkin as Young Ron as Young Donna as Gunnery Sergeant Hayes - Marine Recruiter
  • Richard Haus as Marine Sergeant - 2nd Recruiter as Optimistic Doctor as Jenny as Official #1 – Democratic Convention (Pushing Kovic's Wheelchair)

In addition, decorated Marine and Vietnam War veteran Dale Dye appears as an infantry colonel (being interviewed by a TV reporter played by Oliver Stone), Chicago Seven anti-war protester Abbie Hoffman appears as a student strike organizer at Syracuse University, and singer Edie Brickell appears as a folksinger in Syracuse. Hoffman died before the film was released, with an "In Memoriam" in his honor shown in the closing credits.

Development Edit

Al Pacino expressed interest in portraying Ron Kovic after watching the Vietnam veteran's televised appearance at the 1976 Democratic National Convention and reading his autobiography. He also turned down starring roles in the Vietnam War-themed films Coming Home (1978) and Apocalypse Now (1979), the former for which Kovic would act as a consultant. [4] Kovic met with Pacino in New York, where they discussed adapting the book to film. [4] In September 1976, Pacino's manager, producer Martin Bregman, contacted Kovic's agent and entered into negotiations for the film rights. The following October, Bregman's production company Artists Entertainment Complex acquired the rights for $150,000. [4] Filming was scheduled to begin in June 1977 [4] with Paramount Pictures acting as distributor, [1] but the project fell apart. Bregman and Pacino were unhappy with the script, [4] and the studio dropped the film. [1]

In 1977, Bregman hired Oliver Stone, also a Vietnam veteran, to help write the screenplay. [4] [5] At the time, Stone had been developing Platoon (1986), and an unproduced sequel script titled Second Life, that was inspired by his own life after the war. [6] He and Kovic bonded over their experiences during the war, and they began work on a new script in 1978 after Stone optioned the book. [1] Stone also discussed the adaptation with William Friedkin, who turned down an opportunity to direct in favor of helming The Brink's Job (1978). [5] After Bregman secured financing from German investors, [5] the film briefly continued development at United Artists [1] before moving to Orion Pictures. [5] Daniel Petrie was hired to direct, but several weeks before rehearsals, the investors withdrew from funding the film. [5] [7] After the project moved to Universal Pictures, Bregman and Pacino left the film. [7] Bregman deemed the project impossible, and felt it would be overshadowed by the success of Coming Home. [1] Stone and Kovic grew frustrated with the troubled pre-production and dropped the project, though Stone expressed his hope to return and make the film at a later time. [8] Stone promised Kovic that if his career took off, he would return to Kovic to revive the project. [9] Kovic stated that after the release of Platoon, Stone called Kovic and told him he was ready to return working on the film. [9]

In April 1987, John Daly, chairman and CEO of the English-based Hemdale Film Corporation, announced that it was producing the film, which would act as a sequel to Platoon. [10] The studio entered into negotiations to finance the film in May 1988 with a $20 million budget, but it later withdrew from funding the film. [1] [11] Stone was announced as director in June 1988, and his Ixtlan Productions banner was enlisted as a production company. [11] [12] Tom Pollock, president of Universal Pictures, read the script as Stone was developing Wall Street (1987), and the studio allocated a $14 million budget on the condition that a major star appears in the lead role. [8] Stone and Kovic then revised the script, adding the latter's appearance at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. [13]

Casting Edit

Sean Penn, Charlie Sheen and Nicolas Cage were among those considered by Stone to portray Kovic. [14] In 1987, Stone's agent Paula Wagner had shown Platoon to Tom Cruise, after he had expressed interest in working with the director. [13] Cruise met with Stone to discuss the role in January 1988. [8] The studio was concerned over the prospects of Cruise appearing as a dramatic film lead. [15] [16] Stone, in particular, had dismissed his previous film Top Gun (1986) as a "fascist movie", [16] but expressed that he was drawn to the actor's "Golden Boy" image. "I saw this kid who has everything," he stated. "And I wondered what would happen if tragedy strikes, if fortune denies him . I thought it was an interesting proposition: What would happen to Tom Cruise if something goes wrong?" [8] Kovic was also wary of Cruise's casting, but relented when the actor visited him at his home in Massapequa, New York. [8]

Cruise spent one year preparing for the role. [17] He visited several veterans' hospitals, read various books on the Vietnam War and practiced riding in a wheelchair. [18] At one point during pre-production, Stone suggested that Cruise be injected with a chemical drug that would render him paralyzed for two days the director believed that the drug would help him realistically portray the difficulties of being a paraplegic. The insurance company responsible for the film vetoed the idea, believing that the drug would cause permanent incapacitation. [19] Kovic visited the production daily and would often participate in rehearsals with Cruise. [1] Kovic also appears in the film as a World War II veteran at an Independence Day parade who flinches in response to exploding firecrackers, a reflex that Cruise's character adopts later in the film. [20] On July 3, 1989, following the end of reshoots, Kovic gave Cruise his Bronze Star Medal as a birthday present and in praise of his commitment to the role. [21] [22]

Casting directors Risa Bramon Garcia and Billy Hopkins sought more than 200 actors for various speaking roles. They auditioned 2,000 child actors in Massapequa and hired 8,000 extras for scenes shot in Dallas, Texas. [23] For the Fourth of July parade sequences, student protests and presidential conventions, the production employed nearly 12,000 people from the National Paralysis Foundation, Campfire Girls and American Legion to appear as extras. [1] The film reunited Stone with several past collaborators who make brief appearances in the film. Tom Berenger, who worked with the director on Platoon, plays Gunnery Sergeant Hayes, a Marine recruiter. [24] Michael Wincott, who had a supporting role in Talk Radio (1988), plays a wounded veteran in Mexico. John C. McGinley, in his fourth collaboration with Stone, plays an official at the 1976 Democratic Convention. [25] Mark Moses who appeared in Platoon as Lt. Wolfe would play a overwhelmed doctor at the VA hospital in the Bronx. Stone himself appears as a skeptical news reporter. [26]

To prepare the actors portraying Marines, military advisor Dale Dye organized one-week training missions, one in the United States, and the other in the Philippines where the battle sequences were to be filmed. [1] [27] [26] Abbie Hoffman, a Yippie activist, acted as a consultant who educated the cast about the peace movement. He also makes an appearance as a protestor in Syracuse, New York. [28] The film is dedicated to Hoffman, who died on April 12, 1989. [1]

Filming Edit

Principal photography was scheduled to begin in September 1988, but did not commence until mid-October of that year. [1] Studio executive Pollock planned an initial budget of $14 million, but the film went over budget. [1] [14] [29] The high production costs prompted Stone and Cruise to waive their salaries and instead receive a percentage of the box office gross. [1] [15] [29] The final production cost of the film was $17.8 million. [1] [14] [29] The film was cinematographer Robert Richardson's fifth collaboration with Stone, and their first to be shot in the anamorphic format. [12] Richardson shot the film using Panavision cameras and lenses, [30] [31] and primarily utilized 35 mm film stocks 16 mm and Super 16 mm stocks were also used to film the scene of Kovic demonstrating at the 1972 Republican National Convention, blended with archive footage of the actual event. [32]

Filming began in Dallas, Texas, [19] for scenes set in the United States. The Elmwood neighborhood of Oak Cliff doubled for Massapequa, New York. [1] [33] The Dallas Convention Center was used to re-create the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami, Florida. The filmmakers also shot scenes at the Parkland Memorial Hospital, which stood in for the Bronx Veterans Hospital in New York. [1] They also filmed on soundstages at Los Colinas Studios in Irving, Texas. [31] The Philippines stood in for scenes set in Vietnam and Mexico. [1] Stone originally wanted to shoot on location in Vietnam but was unable to do so, due to unresolved conflicts between that country and the United States. [34] Principal photography wrapped in December 1988, after 65 days of filming. [14] [18] [19]

After viewing a rough cut of the film, Universal demanded that the ending, which depicted Kovic's appearance at the 1976 Democratic National Convention, be reshot. The original scene was shot in Dallas, with 600 extras, but the studio was dissatisfied with the filmed footage, and requested that Stone make it "bigger and better". [1] [35] The scene was reshot in July 1989 at The Forum arena in Inglewood, California. [1] Filming lasted one day, with 6,000 extras. [35] The reshoot ended up costing $500,000. [1] [14] [29]

Music Edit

The score was produced, composed and conducted by John Williams, who agreed to work on the film after viewing a rough cut version. [36] Recording sessions took place at 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles, California. [37] Timothy Morrison, a member of the Boston Pops Orchestra, acted as a trumpeter. [36] Williams stated, "I knew immediately I would want a string orchestra to sing in opposition to all the realism on the screen, and then the idea came to have a solo trumpet – not a military trumpet, but an American trumpet, to recall the happy youth of [Kovic]." [36] The motion picture soundtrack album was released on December 19, 1989, by MCA Records. In addition to Williams's score, it features eight songs that appear in the film. [1] [38] AllMusic's Tavia Hobbart wrote that the score "literally haunts you as you watch the movie. It's just as effective here." [37] Stephen Holden of The New York Times stated, "Mr. Williams's themes are melodically strong enough so that one could imagine them being developed into a full-blown symphonic poem." [39]

Born on the Fourth of July (Motion Picture Soundtrack Album)
No. TitleWriter(s)ArtistLength
1."A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall"Bob DylanEdie Brickell & New Bohemians4:58
2."Born on the Bayou"John FogertyThe Broken Homes4:54
3."Brown Eyed Girl"Van MorrisonVan Morrison3:07
4."American Pie"Don McLeanDon McLean8:32
5."My Girl"Smokey Robinson, Ronald WhiteThe Temptations2:43
6."Soldier Boy"Luther Dixon, Florence GreenbergThe Shirelles2:39
7."Venus"Ed MarshallFrankie Avalon2:21
8."Moon River"Henry Mancini, Johnny MercerHenry Mancini2:41
9."Prologue"John WilliamsJohn Williams1:22
10."The Early Days, Massapequa, 1957"John WilliamsJohn Williams4:57
11."The Shooting of Wilson"John WilliamsJohn Williams5:07
12."Cua Viet River, Vietnam, 1967"John WilliamsJohn Williams5:02
13."Homecoming"John WilliamsJohn Williams2:38
14."Born on the Fourth of July"John WilliamsJohn Williams5:44

Universal gave the film a platform release which involved showing it in select cities before expanding distribution in the following weeks. To qualify the film for awards consideration, [40] the studio issued a limited theatrical run in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Toronto on December 20, 1989. [1] The film was released across North America on January 5, 1990, [3] playing at 1,310 theaters, [41] [42] and expanding to 1,434 theaters by its eleventh week. [41] [43] A heavily edited version of the film was scheduled for broadcast on CBS in early 1991, but was shelved by the network's executives due to the impending Persian Gulf War. The film had its network premiere on January 21, 1992. [1] [44]

Box office Edit

The film grossed $172,021 on its first week of limited release, an average of $34,404 per theatre. More theatres were added on the following weekend, and it grossed a further $61,529 in its second weekend, with an overall gross of $937,946. [41] On its third weekend, the film entered wide release, grossing $11,023,650 and securing the number one position at the North American box office. [41] [42] The film fell 27.2% the following week, grossing an additional $8,028,075 while remaining first in the top-ten rankings. [41] [45] On its fifth weekend, it earned an additional $6,228,360 for an overall gross of $32,607,294. [46]

The film grossed $4,640,940 in its sixth weekend, dropping to second place behind Driving Miss Daisy. [41] [47] The following weekend, it moved to third place, earning an additional $4,012,085. [41] [48] On its eighth weekend, it had dropped to fourth place and earned $3,004,400. [41] [49] It stayed in fifth place for the next three weekends, and by March 4, 1990, the film had an overall gross of $59,673,354. [41] [43]

The film grossed $70,001,698 in North America [3] ($151,650,800 when adjusted for inflation), [50] and $91 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $161,001,698. [3] In the United States and Canada, it was the seventeenth highest-grossing film of 1989. [51] Worldwide, it was the tenth highest-grossing film of 1989, [52] as well as Universal's second highest-grossing film released that year, behind Back to the Future Part II. [53]

Home media Edit

The film was released on VHS on August 9, 1990, [54] and DVD on October 31, 2000. [55] On January 16, 2001, it was again released on DVD as a part of the "Oliver Stone Collection", a box set of films directed by Stone. [56] Special features include an audio commentary by Stone, production notes, and cast and crew profiles. [57] A Special Edition DVD was released on October 5, 2010, containing the film, the commentary by Stone, as well as archive news footage from NBC News. [58] The film was released on HD DVD on June 12, 2007, [59] and on Blu-ray on July 3, 2012. The Blu-ray presents the film in 1080p high definition, and contains all the additional materials found on the Special Edition DVD. [60]

Critical response Edit

Based on 48 reviews, the film currently holds a score of 85% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 7.44/10. The website's consensus reads, "Led by an unforgettable performance from Tom Cruise, Born on the Fourth of July finds director Oliver Stone tackling thought-provoking subject matter with ambitious élan." [61] Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted average score of 75 out of 100 based on 16 reviews from critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [62] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale. [63]

David Denby of New York magazine, stated that the film was "a relentless but often powerful and heartbreaking piece of work, dominated by Tom Cruise's impassioned performance." [64] Richard Corliss of Time, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also commended Cruise's performance. [21] [65] [66] [67] Vincent Canby of The New York Times said the film was "the most ambitious nondocumentary film yet made about the entire Vietnam experience." [68] Janet Maslin, also writing for The New York Times, praised Stone's direction, writing that he "reaches out instantly to his audience's gut-level emotions and sustains a walloping impact for two and a half hours." [69] Internet reviewer James Berardinelli felt that the film's greatest accomplishment was "its contrasting of the glorious illusion of war as seen from thousands of miles away to the barbarity of it up-close." [70]

The Washington Post published two negative reviews Hal Hinson called the film "alienating", [71] while Desson Howe was critical of Cruise's "whiny" performance. [72] Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times felt that the actor's portrayal of Kovic was lacking in character development. [73] Jonathan Rosenbaum derided the storytelling for "brimming with false uplift", [74] and Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly called the film "2 1/2 hours of self-righteousness masquerading as art." [75] Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote, "It's almost inconceivable that Ron Kovic was as innocent as the movie and the 1976 autobiography on which it's based make him out to be . Kovic's book is simple and explicit he states his case in plain, angry words. Stone's movie yells at you for two hours and twenty-five minutes." [76]

The film also received criticism for its dramatization of actual events, prompted by Kovic's declared decision to run for Congress as a Democratic opponent to Californian Republican Robert Dornan in the 38th congressional district. As a result, Born on the Fourth of July became Stone's first film to be publicly attacked in the media. [77] Dornan criticized the film for portraying Kovic as "[being] in a panic and mistakenly shooting his corporal to death in Vietnam, visiting prostitutes, abusing drugs and alcohol and cruelly insulting his parents". Kovic dismissed his comments as being part of a "hatred campaign", [78] and ultimately did not run for election. [77]

In an article for the New York Post, former White House Communications Director Pat Buchanan criticized the adaptation for deviating from the book, and concluded by calling Stone a "propagandist". [1] Democratic State Senator Nancy Larraine Hoffmann, who took part in Syracuse University's 1970 peaceful protest of the Cambodian Campaign, was critical of the film's depiction of Syracuse police as "faceless people brutalizing peaceful protesters". [79] Following the film's wide release in January 1990, Stone wrote a letter apologizing to the city of Syracuse and its police officials. [80]

Accolades Edit

The film received various awards and nominations, with particular recognition for the screenplay, Cruise's performance, Stone's direction and the score by John Williams. The National Board of Review named it one of the "Top 10 Films of 1989", ranking it at number one. [81] The film received five Golden Globe Award nominations [82] and won four for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director and Best Screenplay, while Williams was nominated for Best Original Score. [83]

In February 1990, the film competed for the Golden Bear at the 40th Berlin International Film Festival, but lost to the American film Music Box (1990) and Czech film Larks on a String (1969). [84] That same month, the film garnered eight Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor its closest rival was Driving Miss Daisy, which received nine nominations. [85] At the 62nd Oscars, Stone won a second Academy Award for Best Director [86] he had previously won the award for Platoon. [87] The film also won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing Driving Miss Daisy, The Bear, Glory and The Fabulous Baker Boys had also been nominated in that category. [86] At the 44th British Academy Film Awards in 1991, the film received two nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Adapted Screenplay, but did not win in either category. [88]

On May 10, 2021, Cruise returned all three of his Golden Globe awards to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association due to controversy in its lack of diversity among its membership, including his Best Actor award for this film. [89]

'What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?': The History of Frederick Douglass' Searing Independence Day Oration

A merica has been working to fully live up to the ideals laid out in the Declaration of Independence ever since the document was printed on July 4, 1776. So while the U.S. tends to go all out celebrating freedom on the Fourth of July, alternate independence commemorations held a day later often draw attention to a different side of that story, with readings of the Frederick Douglass speech best known today as “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

The speech was originally delivered at a moment when the country was fiercely locked in debate over the question of slavery, but there’s a reason why it has remained famous more than 150 years after emancipation, says David Blight, author of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize winning biography Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.

To some, celebrations of American independence on July 4 are a reminder of the country’s hypocrisy on the matter of freedom, as slavery played a key role in the nation’s history even today, America’s history of racism is still being written, while other forms of modern-day slavery persist in the U.S. and around the world. For those who feel that way, July 5 may be an easier day to celebrate: on that day in 1827, 4,000 African Americans paraded down Broadway in New York City to celebrate the end of slavery in their state.

One person who felt that way was Douglass, the famous abolitionist, who was himself born into slavery. When the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, N.Y., invited Douglass to give a July 4 speech in 1852, Douglass opted to speak on July 5 instead.

Addressing an audience of about 600 at the newly constructed Corinthian Hall, he started out by acknowledging that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were “brave” and “great” men, and that the way they wanted the Republic to look was in the right spirit. But, he said, speaking more than a decade before slavery was ended nationally, a lot of work still needed to be done so that all citizens can enjoy “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Above “your national, tumultuous joy” &mdash the July 4th celebrations of white Americans &mdash were the “mournful wails of millions” whose heavy chains “are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them.”

In the oration’s most famous passages, Douglass discussed what it felt like to see such festivities and to know independence was not a given for people like him:

What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?…

I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn…

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham your boasted liberty, an unholy license your national greatness, swelling vanity your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy &mdash a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Douglass’ speech also foreshadowed the bloody reckoning to come: Civil War. “For it is not light that is needed, but fire it is not the gentle shower, but thunder,” he said. “We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

At the time Douglass spoke, Blight says, the opportunity was ripe for a lecture on the moral crisis.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin had just been published that spring and was taking the country by storm. The country was in the midst of crises over fugitive slave rescues in the wake of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The political party system was beginning to tear itself asunder over the expansion of slavery,” he says. “It&rsquos also an election year the 1852 presidential election was heating up that summer. The Nativist party is rising. It&rsquos an extraordinary political moment.”

It was a turbulent time for Douglass personally, too. In the late 1840s and into the 1850s, his finances were tight, and he was struggling to sustain the newspaper he founded, The North Star. He’d had a breakdown in the early 1850s, and was having trouble supporting his family. His friend Julia Griffith, the treasurer of the Rochester group that invited him to give the 1852 speech, was one of the people helping him fund-raise to keep the paper alive.

The message wasn’t new &mdash Douglass promoted those ideas year-round &mdash but Blight says he knew the Fourth of July was a good hook, and expected the speech to be a hit. He had it printed immediately after delivering it and then went out on the road and sold it for 50 cents a copy or $6 for a hundred. “He does some of his greatest writing in early 1850s during this terrible personal crisis,” Blight says, “and right there in the middle of it comes the greatest speech he’s ever delivered, of the hundreds of speeches he delivered in his life.”

“It&rsquos the birth of American Independence, the birth of a nation, and what the speech is saying is you must destroy first what you created and remake it, or it will be destroyed &mdash and you with it,” says Blight.

Douglass continued to add to the speech in the years that followed. On July 4, 1862 &mdash with the war underway &mdash he addressed an audience of about 2,000 in Himrods Corner, N.Y. Blight argues that his shift then from addressing simply “you” to discussing the Revolution as something undertaken by “your fathers, and my fathers” indicates he believed emancipation will happen more than he did a decade earlier.

President Lincoln did issue the Emancipation Proclamation six months later &mdash but even after the war’s end, Douglass continued to use the Fifth of July to draw attention to the nation’s track record on the idea celebrated on the Fourth. On July 5, 1875, as Reconstruction brought its own fears, like violence from the Ku Klux Klan, Douglass shifted his speech for the day, asking, &ldquoIf war among the whites brought peace and liberty to the blacks, what will peace among the whites bring?” But the 1852 “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech remains the best known of his addresses on the occasion, especially as it became even more widely read in the late-20th century, with events like the public readings sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council and a powerful reading by James Earl Jones in 2004.

Douglass’ message &mdash about America struggling to live up to the lofty goals it set for itself at the founding &mdash continues to be relevant, says Blight.

“He would use the Fourth of July for its irony over and over and over, just like the Declaration of Independence is used to remind the country of its potential and promise, and to him, race was always the measure of that,” he says. “America, by its nature, is never quite fulfilling all of those promises.”

When three presidents died on the Fourth of July, Americans saw the work of God

On July 4, 1831, James Monroe died from heart failure and tuberculosis at his daughter’s house in New York City. The fifth U.S. president had attempted to write an autobiography, but was unable to complete it as his health slowly deteriorated after his wife died the year before.

Thousands of mourners crowded the narrow New York City streets to see the 73-year-old’s hearse make its way to the family vault in Marble Cemetery.

With his death came an eerie coincidence that many people couldn’t ignore: Monroe had become the third president and Founding Father to die on the Fourth of July.

Five years earlier, on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, longtime friends and occasional rivals Thomas Jefferson and John Adams also died.

“Thomas Jefferson survives,” were rumored to be among Adams’ last words from his deathbed in Quincy, Mass. He was unaware that his friend died that day, July 4, 1826, at his beloved Monticello estate more than 500 miles away in Virginia.

To many Americans in the early 19th century, the timing of the deaths of three men who helped found and guide the young United States went beyond sheer coincidence.

“Again our national anniversary has been marked by one of those events, which it may be scarcely permitted to ascribe the chance,” the Boston Traveler newspaper wrote on July 8, 1831.

“Three of the four presidents who have left the scene of their usefulness and glory expired on the anniversary of the national birthday, a day which of all others, had it been permitted them to choose [they] would probably had selected for the termination of their careers,” wrote the New York Evening Post the day after Monroe’s death.

Adams served as the second president from 1797 to 1801, followed by Jefferson, who served until 1809. But long before the 13 colonies had won their independence, Adams and Jefferson played vital roles in creating the document that declared men were created equal and entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Adams, in a letter to a friend in 1822, recalled how Jefferson was placed on the committee to write the document. “Mr Jefferson came into Congress in June 1775 and brought with him a reputation for literature, science, and a happy talent at composition. Writings of his were handed about, remarkable for the peculiar felicity of expression,” Adams wrote.

The irascible Adams also described why he insisted that Jefferson write the draft:

“Jefferson proposed to me to make the draught. I said I will not You shall do it. Oh No! Why will you not? You ought to do it. I will not. Why? Reasons enough. What can be your reasons? Reason 1st. You are a Virginian, and Virginia ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason 2d. I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular You are very much otherwise. Reason 3d: You can write ten times better than I can. ‘Well,’ said Jefferson, ‘if you are decided I will do as well as I can.’”

The importance of July 4 might have surprised some Founding Fathers. The Continental Congress declared freedom from Britain on July 2 and approved the Declaration on Independence on July 4. Most members signed the document in August.

Adams thought Americans would remember July 2 as their “Day of Deliverance” from Britain. In a letter to his wife, Abigail, he wrote, “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

While Adams and Jefferson represented their states in the Continental Congress, a teenage Monroe dropped out of college in 1776 to fight in the Revolution, enlisting in the 3rd Virginia Regiment, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Many historians consider Monroe the last president from the Founding Fathers.

Adams and Jefferson would live to see the country expand well beyond the original 13 states. Adams was 90 when he died of a heart attack. Jefferson had been in declining health for years before dying at 83.

“People interpreted their deaths in a religious manner,” said Michael Meranze, a U.S. history professor at UCLA. “It was clearly taken symbolically as both the birth and growth of the early republic.”

In 1826, for instance, Rep. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts delivered a two-hour-long eulogy in Boston suggesting their deaths were a sign that God was protecting the nation.

“As their lives themselves were the gifts of Providence, who is not willing to recognize in their happy termination, as well as in their long continuance, proofs that our country and its benefactors are objects of His care?” Webster said.

Religion played a prominent role in the lives of many Americans during the early 19th century — an era known as the Second Great Awakening that took off around the late 1820s and early 1830s. It was only natural that many Americans of the era saw religious significance in the timing of the deaths of Adams, Jefferson and Monroe.

Although scholars are typically weary of analyzing unexplained phenomena, in 2005 historian Margaret P. Battin entertained the meaning behind the same-day deaths of Adams and Jefferson by offering six possibilities:

Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July?

Discussions of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence resulted in some minor changes, but the spirit of the document was unchanged. The process of revision continued through all of July 3 and into the late afternoon of July 4, when the Declaration was officially adopted. Of the 13 colonies, nine voted in favor of the Declaration, two -- Pennsylvania and South Carolina -- voted No, Delaware was undecided and New York abstained.

John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. It is said that John Hancock's signed his name "with a great flourish" so England's "King George can read that without spectacles!"

Things You (Probably) Don't Know About the Fourth of July

“The day will be the most memorable in the history of America,” wrote John Adams in 1776. People will honor it with parades, fireworks and celebrations, he added.

Adams was talking about the second of July.

That is the day the Continental Congress voted in support of independence from the British. But the date written on the Declaration of Independence is July 4. So, since 1776, Americans have celebrated July 4 as the country’s Independence Day.

Patriotic to the end

Several early presidents of the United States died on July 4. They include John Adams, who became the second president.

Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the country’s third president, both died on the country’s 50 th anniversary of Independence Day.

James Monroe, the fifth U.S. president, died on July 4, 1831.

And the 30 th president, Calvin Coolidge, was born on July 4.

Amazing? Or disgusting?

Most Americans celebrate Independence Day with barbecues, parades and, yes, fireworks. But a few celebrate by eating all the hot dogs they can.

Since the early 1970s, a restaurant called Nathan’s Famous has organized a competition to see who can eat the most hot dogs in a short time. The event is now shown on sports broadcaster ESPN. It includes a women’s competition and a men’s event. Both are held in New York City, in an area called Coney Island.

In 10 years, Joey Chestnut has won the men’s contest nine times. In 2016, he set a record at the competition by eating 70 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

The 2016 women’s winner, Miki Sudo, has won in each of the past three years. In 2016, she ate 38 (and a half) hot dogs.

Sudo and Chestnut each won a $10,000 prize.

Where do those fireworks come from?

Let’s go back to those fireworks, probably the most common image related to Independence Day. Americans really, really love fireworks. The American Pyrotechnic Association – “pyrotechnic” is another word for “fireworks” – reported that Americans spent $825 million on fireworks last year.

Where do many of our fireworks come from? China.

By the way, we also import most of our American flags from China, too.

Kelly Jean Kelly wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

So what did happen on July 4, 1776?

The Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. They'd been working on it for a couple of days after the draft was submitted on July 2nd and finally agreed on all of the edits and changes.

July 4, 1776, became the date that was included on the Declaration of Independence, and the fancy handwritten copy that was signed in August (the copy now displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.) It’s also the date that was printed on the Dunlap Broadsides, the original printed copies of the Declaration that were circulated throughout the new nation. So when people thought of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 was the date they remembered.

In contrast, we celebrate Constitution Day on September 17th of each year, the anniversary of the date the Constitution was signed, not the anniversary of the date it was approved. If we’d followed this same approach for the Declaration of Independence we’d being celebrating Independence Day on August 2nd of each year, the day the Declaration of Independence was signed!

8 Famous Figures Born on the Fourth of July - HISTORY

Yup, everybody has 'em each and every year. Considering the other alternative, having a birthday is a pretty good thing. So, whether it's your birthday, or someone you know or love, enjoy it and celebrate it. Life's too short to have it any other way!

Birthdays are the most important holidays of all. And so, we encourage you to celebrate birthdays with us here at Holiday Insights!

Did you know? The White House will send your newborn a birthday card. Just send the following information: Baby's name, address, and date of birth to: White House Greetings Office, Room 39, Washington, DC 20500

Here is another fact: "At least fifteen million people are having a birthday today."

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Famous Birthdays Who else was born on your Birthday? Find out!

Colors of flowers and their Meaning- Red means love. But, what do the others mean?

Did You Konw? The song "Happy Birthday to You" was first sung on June 27, 1859.

Ecards We've got you covered with free Ecards for Birthdays and just about any other holiday, occasion, event, or no event at all!

Holiday Insights , where every day is a holiday, a bizarre or wacky day, an observance, or a special event. Join us in the daily calendar fun each and every day of the year.

Did You Know? There are literally thousands of daily holidays, special events and observances, more than one for every day of the year. Many of these holidays are new. More holidays are being created on a regular basis. At Holiday Insights, we take great efforts to thoroughly research and document the details of each one, as completely and accurately as possible.

Watch the video: Born On The 4th Of July. The Secrets Behind Your And Americas Birthday!