The United States celebrated its Independence Day –  July 4th – this week. Some of the traditions – fireworks, parades, cookouts, music–took place in various public settings but most were or should have been a different type of gathering – one that recognized social distancing due to the pandemic.

Normally the July celebration is a time when many people relax, have fun and wave the American flag. But who stops to think about what the 4th of July means? Sure, we learned in middle school about the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the official beginning of the nation, but as an adult do we give it any thought beyond a day off and BBQ?

As information science professionals we have at our fingertips a plethora of knowledge. From what context does our history knowledge come?

Library? Maybe.

Internet? Probably.

School? Sure, somewhat.

Schoolhouse Rock? Maybe.

Musicals? Wait, what?

The American Revolutionary War began in 1775 because the American colonists wanted to break away from Great Britain and start their own country. They felt that the British were treating them unfairly. At first, only a few colonies wanted to be completely independent. However, by 1776 almost all wanted independence from Great Britain.

On June 7, 1776, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and debated a motion to declare independence for the colonies. They did not vote on the motion that day, but instead made a committee to create a statement saying why they wanted to break away from Great Britain.

This is the point where we should cue a film clip from the musical “1776”. Okay, if you insist.

I do not think Hollywood is factually accurate, but they did tackle some challenging aspects of the day: slavery, alcohol and religion, to name a few.

Another musical, and a much more recent one, featured the Revolutionary War. Hamilton is the story of forgotten American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and his ascent out of poverty and to power against the backdrop of the American War of Independence.

Many Americans who weren’t able to see the play in person got to experience it via Disney+ over the holiday weekend.

These musicals, set in the crucible of the Revolutionary War in which our country was born, are a fantastic way to launch a discussion – 6 ft. apart – about what it means to you to be an American and what freedoms that may grant you – especially during the pandemic.

Melody K. Smith

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