Editor’s Note: Though in some respects an adaptation of our July 4, 1776 Declaration, this time the tyrant is not King George but the endemic system of oppression and segregation that prevented Black Americans from being part of “all men are created equal.” The public proclamation issued by the National Committee of Black Churchmen on July 4, 1970 represented a powerful indictment of a system that claimed to be democratic but that willfully marginalized many of its citizens just because of their race.
The Black Declaration of Independence,
Issued and signed on July 4, 1970, by the members of the National Committee of Black Churchmen.
In the Black Community, July 4, 1970 a Declaration by concerned Black Citizens of the United States of America in Black Churches, Schools, Homes, Community Organizations and Institutions assembled:
When in the course of Human Events, it becomes necessary for a people who were stolen from the lands of their Fathers, transported under the most ruthless and brutal circumstances 5,000 miles to a strange land, sold into dehumanizing slavery, emasculated, subjugated, exploited, and discriminated against for 351 years, to call with finality, a halt to such indignities and genocidal practices–by virtue of the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, a decent respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare their just grievances and the urgent and necessary redress thereof.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are not only created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights among which are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, but this when this equality and these rights are deliberately and consistently refused, withheld or abnegated, men are bound by self-respect and honor to rise up in righteous indignation to secure them. Whenever any Form of Government, or any variety of established traditions and systems of the Majority becomes destructive of Freedom and of legitimate Human Rights, it is the Right of the Minorities to use every necessary and accessible means to protest and to disrupt the Machinery of Oppression, and so to bring such general distress and discomfort upon the oppressor as to the offended Minorities shall seem most appropriate and most likely to affect a proper adjustment of the society.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that such bold tactics should not be initiated for light and transient Causes; and, accordingly, the experience of White America has been that the descendants of the African citizens brought forcibly to these shores, and to the shores of the Caribbean Islands, as slaves, have been patient long past what can be expected of any human beings so affronted. But when a long train of Abuses and Violence, pursuing invariably the same Object, manifests a Design to reduce them under Absolute Racist Domination and Injustice, it is their duty radically to confront such Government or system of traditions and to provide, under the aegis of Legitimate Minority Power and Self Determination, for their present Relief and future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of Black People in the United States of America; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to address this Declaration to Despotic White Power, and to give due notice of their determined refusal to be any longer silenced by fear or flattery, or to be denied justice. The history of the treatment of Black People in the United States is a history having in direct Object the Establishment and Maintenance of Racist Tyranny over this people. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.
The United States has erected a multitude of Public Agencies and Offices, and sent into our ghettos Swarms of Social Workers, Officers and Investigators to harass our People.
The United States has imposed Taxes upon us without protecting our Constitution Rights.
The United States has constrained our Black sons taken captive in its Armies, to bear arms against their black, brown and yellow Brothers, to be the Executioners of these Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
The Exploitation and Injustice of the United States have incited domestic Insurrections among us, and the United States has endeavored to bring on the Inhabitants of our ghettos, the merciless Military Establishment, whose known Rule of control is an undistinguished shooting of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions of Black People:
For being lynched, burned, tortured, harried, harassed and imprisoned without just cause.
For being gunned down in the streets, in our churches, in our homes, in our apartments and on our campuses, by Policemen and Troops who are protected by a Mock Trial, for Punishment from any Murders which they commit on the Inhabitants of our Communities.
For creating, through Racism and bigotry, an unrelenting Economic Depression in the Black Community which wreaks havoc upon our men and disheartens our youth.
For denying to most of us equal access to the better Housing and Education of the land.
For having desecrated and torn down our humblest dwelling places, under the Pretense of Urban Renewal, without replacing them at costs which we can afford.
The United States has denied our personhood by refusing to teach our heritage, and the magnificent contributions to the life, wealth and growth of this Nation which have been made by Black People.
In every state of these Oppressions we have petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered mainly by repeated Injury. A Nation, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Racially Oppressive Regime, is unfit to see the respect of a Free People.
Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our White Brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their Structures of Power to extend an unwarranted, Repressive Control over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our Captivity and Settlement here. We have appealed to their vaunted Justice and Magnanimity, and we have abjured them by the Ties of our Common Humanity to disavow these Injustices, which, would inevitably interrupt our Connections and Correspondence. They have been deaf to the voice of Justice and of Humanity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which hereby announces our Most Firm Commitment to the Liberation of Black People, and hold the Institutions, Traditions and Systems of the United States as we hold the rest of the societies of Mankind, Enemies when Unjust and Tyrannical; when Just and Free, Friends.
We, therefore, the Black People of the United States of America, in all parts of this Nation, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name of our good People and our own Black heroes — Richard Allen, James Varick, Absalom Jones, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and all Black People past and present, great and small — Solemnly Publish and Delcare, that we shall be, and of Right ought to be free and independent from the injustice, exploitative control, institutionalized violence and racism of white America, that unless we receive full Redress and Relief from these Inhumanities we will move to renounce all Allegiance to this Nation, and will refuse, in every way, to cooperate with the Evil which is perpetrated upon ourselves and our Communities. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
Sources: Modern Black Nationalism: From Marcus Garvey to Louis Farrakhan, edited by William L. Van Deburg, New York University Press, 1977
See also The Michigan Daily, July 11, 1970: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2706&dat=19700711&id=QQxbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Nk4NAAAAIBAJ&pg=1714,1900499
At Canaan’s Edge, Taylor Branch, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007