Rising racist sentiment in the North denied free blacks any role in public patriotic celebrations like the Fourth of July. White mobs often attacked any blacks who sought to celebrate American freedom, asserting that blacks were not equal citizens and had no role in such civic celebrations. The idea behind the Dred Scott decision that blacks were not included in the American promise of liberty was present on the ground long before it became law.
In a bold response, blacks created their own holiday, January 1, celebrating the abolition of the slave trade by the United States in 1808. From the start, they seized the day to celebrate their struggle for freedom. Festivities included parades, banquets, and church services, with a celebratory sermon for the occasion. Many sermons were published as pamphlets and comprise the earliest distinctive genre of African American writing.“