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Independence Day

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Fireworks at The National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The National Mall in Washington, D.C., is lit by fireworks during a celebration of America's independence day. Courtesy the Defense Visual Information Directorate.

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The United States celebrates its Independence Day on July 4.

The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, honors the nation's birthday -- the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It is a day of picnics and barbecues, patriotic parades, and a night of concerts and fireworks.  The flying of the American flag is widespread.

In the words of Founding Father John Adams, the holiday would be “the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance. … It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

The history of our Independence Day celebration dates back to the 1770s, when the original 13 colonies were still under the rule of England's King George III. Although they had no representation in Parliament, they had to pay tax to England. For years, Congress sought unsuccessfully to resolve the dispute between England and the colonies. Finally, in 1776, the Second Continental Congress appointed a committee, headed by Thomas Jefferson, to draft a declaration of independence. On July 4, 1776, Congress officially adopted the document declaring their freedom from England. Although the signing of the Declaration was not complete until August, the Fourth of July has been accepted as the official anniversary of American independence.

By the early 1800s the tradition of parades, picnics and fireworks was established as the way to celebrate America's birthday. The holiday was already widely observed throughout the nation when Congress declared it a federal holiday in 1870.



The Star Spangled Banner

Composed by Francis Scott Key in 1814

Performance by The U.S. Army Ceremonial Band

Congress proclaimed it the U.S. National Anthem in 1931

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'T is the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us as a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!







Join the Signers the Declaration of Independence - Sign your name to the Declaration of Independence along side our forefathers.

If you had been a member of the Second Continental Congress in 1776, you were a rebel and considered a traitor by the King.  You knew that a reward had been posted for the capture of certain prominent rebel leaders and the largest British armada ever assembled was just outside New York Harbor.  Affixing your name to the document meant that you pledged your life, your fortune, and your sacred honor to the cause of freedom.  (The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)


The Charters of Freedom - View the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights.  (The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)


Celebrating the Fourth of July - By Marian I. Doyle. Reprinted courtesy of Early American Homes Magazine.


Using Fireworks Safely - Fireworks safety tips from the National Safety Council.




It's Our Flag (Band of the U.S. Air Force Reserve - 4:21/7.0MB)


The Stars and Stripes Forever (The U.S. Army Ceremonial Band - 3:36/3.4MB)


The Star Spangled Banner - instrumental (The U.S. Army Ceremonial Band - 1:18/1.2MB)


The Star Spangled Banner - vocals (Band of the U.S. Air Force Reserve - 1:18/2.2MB)


America The Beautiful (The U.S. Army Brass Quintet - 1:51/1.8MB)


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