From The Roanoke Times

Part II, Continued from July 5...

Challenges on July 4 continued into the next century.

1864: The war slogged on. The Wilderness, the Bloody Angle, Cold Harbor, all these were now part of the gruesome American lexicon of war.

1865: The war was, at last over. But the president had been assassinated, and the United States that marked its first post-war July Fourth was still grappling with how to put a broken and bloodied nation back together — and institute a new civil order that encompassed newly-freed slaves.

1930: The first July 4 since the stock market crash of 1929 saw unemployment topping 8%, but it wasn’t immediately clear that this would really be The Great Depression. The stock market had rebounded, but consumers were spending a lot less money, setting off a deflationary spiral. By 1933, unemployment would hit 24.9%. It would remain in double digits until 1941 and wouldn’t return to “normal” levels until World War II.

1942: The first July 4 of World War II was a somber one. So far the war had brought almost unrelenting bad news —the surrender of the Philippines, Japan invading the Aleutian islands of Alaska, a Japanese submarine firing on Oregon — but a month before there was finally something encouraging to report. The United States had defeated the Japanese navy at Midway. The Nazi fortress in Europe remained impregnable, however. On July 4, 1942, Americans flew their first air raids over Europe. They had to borrow British planes. Six went out; only three came back.

1943: Another doubtful Fourth. Americans were making slow but bloody progress against the Japanese in the Pacific and they had helped clear the Nazis out of North Africa. But Europe remained under German control. Six days later, on July 10, the first landings on Sicily began.

1968: If there was ever a year in which it felt like things were falling apart, this was the one. On that July Fourth, Americans were still reeling from a turbulent — and deadly — spring. Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered. Robert F. Kennedy had been murdered. Anti-war demonstrators had taken over administration buildings at Columbia University. In California; there had been a shootout between police and a new group calling itself the Black Panthers. Americans couldn’t even celebrate their space program: Astronauts were still grounded after the fatal Apollo 1 fire the year before. It was unclear whether Americans would ever get to the moon— or whether they’d find the Russians there first.

1980: America felt itself held hostage — because 52 Americans were being held hostage in Iran. A rescue attempt that April had failed with the deaths of eight American servicemen — including one from Roanoke, John Davis Harvey.

We cite this litany on sad events on what otherwise should be a celebratory day for this reason: To remind us that our nation has often faced trying times and we have somehow summoned the strength to endure them and overcome them. Our Declaration of Independence 243 years ago is worth celebrating. So is the fact that we’re still here to celebrate it.

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