July’s American Historical Moments

Patriotism is a concept that brings people together.  In July, especially, the feeling emanates with the reminder of how “We the People” live in a safe, well-defended free nation.  The struggle for defined freedom began with collective ideas, planning, collaboration, and willingness to stand and verbalize the conditions of the fight.  Throughout history, the acts of people showcase the American notion of grit and determination.  

July 2nd, 1776

Between 1763 and 1775, Britain began imposing laws to regulate trade and created a new burden, excess taxes. The payment was expected in British pounds sterling rather than colonial currency , and new bill even brought forth the necessity to mail legal documents and papered goods with a government-issued stamp. In the midst of rising tensions, colonials, denied any right to voice complaints to the British Parliament and willing to sacrifice themselves to create a democratic nation for all, stepped forward to form the Continental Congress. As state delegates lobbied to support severing ties with Britain, “The Committee of Five”—John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Roger Livingston—began drafting the Declaration of Independence.   After the final touches, Jefferson presented the document to Congress on June 28th, 1776.  On July 2nd, Congress voted unanimously for the Declaration! Two days later, John Hancock and 56 others signed, knowing their signature was an act of treason. 

Fact:   Philadelphia printer John Dunlap reproduced hundreds of copes to dispatch across the 13 colonies.  In 1989, an original “Dunlap broadside,” discovered hidden in a $4 frame and purchased at a flea market, sold at an auction for $8.1 million.

July 19th, 1848

In Seneca Falls, New York, women activists called for a “Women’s Rights Convention” led by a young mother named Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Her Declaration of Sentiments began with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”  At a public forum of 300 people, including Frederick Douglass, Stanton and a friend, Lucretia Mott, demanded equality of financial and educational opportunities, equal marriage and property rights, social and cultural norms, and all rights and privileges of United States citizens.  The demonstration introduced a meeting and life-long friendship between Stanton and Massachusetts teacher Susan B. Anthony.  After the Civil War, they pushed lawmakers to guarantee women’s rights. 

Fact:  Despite not being eligible to vote in 1866, Stanton was the first woman to run for a Congressional seat. She received 24 of 12,000 votes. 

July 4th, 1876 

Giving up was not Susan B. Anthony’s style.  It mattered not that she was barred from speaking at the centennial 4th of July celebration at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.  With the help of friends, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, copies of the speech were passed to attendees outside the building.   A crowd arrived to hear the impassioned words to impeach all government officials who did not acknowledge the promises of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and to women.  Anthony believed that until women had a right to vote, contributing to elect dutiful lawmakers, society wouldn’t take a woman in politics seriously! 

Fact:  Seventy-two years later, in 1920, the Declaration of Sentiments achieved a goal.  Congress passed the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote.

July 2nd, 1964

After landmark cases and non-violent demonstrations, from support of eliminating segregation in schools to the Montgomery bus boycott and the actions of Rosa Parks, to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., a significant moment became a law.  President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, prohibiting discrimination based on race and allowing the government to cut funding where it had occurred. 

Fact:  The Civil Rights Act provided equal protection through the laws of citizenship and protection of voting rights under the 14th and 15th Amendments. 

July 16th, 1969 

Color televisions became popular in the mid-1960s.  It was a benefit if your family had one by July of 1969.  Over 550 million people worldwide tuned in to watch Apollo 11’s moon launch. Four days later, Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon’s surface. With two 16mm motion picture film cameras, one color, and a black-and-white television camera attached to the external module, the world witnessed approximately two and a half hours of live coverage and audio. 

Fact:  Buzz Aldrin and Armstrong spent the day walking on the surface, while Michael Collins, the third pilot, remained in a module, orbiting the moon. 

Happy Fourth of July!


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