Independence Daze: A History of July Fourth
In the early days of our nation, July 4th wasn’t an official holiday at all. In fact, it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid day-off. So how did the Fourth become the holiest day on our secular calendar? Historian Pauline Maier offers some answers, and explains how radically the meaning of the Declaration has changed since 1776. James Heintze chronicles early Independence Day Bacchanalia. And historian David Blight reflects on Frederick Douglass’ arresting 1852 Independence Day speech.
[This episode was originally produced in 2008.]
- Pauline Maier, Professor of History at MIT and author of American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence
- James Heintze, Librarian Emeritus at American University and author of The Fourth of July Encyclopedia
- David Blight, Professor of History at Yale University and author of Frederick Douglass’s Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee
Want to dig deeper into the history of July Fourth? Check out a list of sources the History Guys put together to learn more.
See a listing of music used in the episode.
Read the listener comments that helped shape this episode.