The Pennsylvania Evening Post Declares Two Independence Declarations, July 1776

This is one of my favorite images to share with students when discussing America’s founding. On July 2, 1776, the Pennsylvania Evening Post included notices for two declarations of freedom that had taken place in Philadelphia: the first was the Continental Congress declaring “the UNITED COLONIES FREE and INDEPENDENT STATES”; the second was a runaway notice for “a Negro man named ISHMAEL,” who declared his freedom by escaping his master. The first act, of course, was to be celebrated; the second, punished. The ironies of America are usually like that.

It is an important reminder that we often like to think of things like “liberty,” “freedom,” and “rights” to be self-evident and easily assumed, but those terms are almost always tied up to cultural assumptions and demonstrate a sense of unacknowledge privilege. Even today, in the Age ofTrump, we sometimes forget the fraught landscape of unexamined inequality and forfeited justice.

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