In the early days of our nation, July Fourth 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?
In this episode of BackStory, 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.