Anniversaries of Independence Virtual Celebration Takes Place July 2

The Washington University Libraries’ rare copy of the Declaration of Independence. Photo by James Byard/WUSTL Photos.

Each year on July 4, we commemorate the founding of the United States of America and celebrate one of our most important documents: the Declaration of Independence.

Washington University in St. Louis is fortunate to have a rare copy of the document on display in a special exhibition space in John M. Olin Library. Since its installation in 2018, the exhibit has been the cornerstone of Washington University Libraries’ Independence Day programming.

Independence Day is a national holiday unlike any other, including the pomp and circumstance of large cookouts, various parties, parades, and fireworks. But it is also a time to reflect on the ever-evolving history of the nation and the people and events that have played an integral part in making this country what it is—imperfect, but always drawn to and moved by its founding ideals. The freedom and equality found in the Declaration of Independence, while sacred to our democracy, are meaningless without the societal struggles to live up to those goals.

Declaration of Independence exhibit space in John M. Olin Library.

Given the nature of our current moment—dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and with the responses to police brutality that have many people exercising their First Amendment rights—this year’s Fourth of July program will take place via Zoom, on Thursday, July 2, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. The program—entitled Anniversaries of Independence—will celebrate two important milestones in the fight for equality and freedom: the centennial of the 19th Amendment (giving women the right to vote) and the centennial of the founding of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The program will feature an abridged reading of the speech “The Declaration of the Rights of the Women of the United States” (July 4, 1876) and a panel discussion on women’s suffrage and the ACLU featuring Elizabeth Katz, associate professor of law at Washington University, and Miranda Rectenwald, Washington University Libraries’ curator of Local History.

Our Independence Day celebration will also include readings of children’s books, which will take place on the Libraries’ Instagram account, and a chance to declare a new civil right in our “Make Your Own Declaration” activity. More details about the event can be found here.

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