Smart Ways to Mark July 4th and American History

By Alison Durkee

July 4th is nearly upon us, and if you’re looking for a way to celebrate beyond fireworks and barbecues, New York City has you covered. Celebrate Americaand acknowledge its flawswith these upcoming talks and events.

New York may be best known on July 4 for the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest in Coney Island and the annual Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks display, which will take place this year over the East River beginning at 9:25pm. Those looking for a more historical approach to the holiday can head to the Fraunces Tavern Museum, which will be offering an open house with $1 admission all day to mark the occasion. The museum will also offer a special Dawn of Independence walking tour celebrating Lower Manhattan’s Revolutionary-era history during the holiday’s early morning hours. For those who aren’t early risers, the museum will also offer an Independence Eve walking tour covering the neighborhood’s history on June 29.

Another museum marking the holiday is the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden, which will shed light on how the July 4th holiday was celebrated during the 1800s at an event on July 13. The Brooklyn Museum will offer a more modern celebration with their Target First Saturday on July 7, with a theme of Reimagining Independence that includes performances, lectures, art projects, and more.

Even outside of Independence Day itself, there will still be plenty of chances this summer to delve more into America’s founding. Founding father Alexander Hamilton will be the subject of two upcoming lectures, as the Fraunces Tavern Museum discusses his life and death on July 12 while One Day University gets into his rivalry with Thomas Jefferson at an event on June 26. Go back to the Revolutionary War with a session on Nathan Hale and Moses Dunbar (July 19), two Revolutionary figures who were hanged as traitors on opposing sides of the war. For a more local look at the American Revolution, join the Prospect Park Alliance on August 19 for a tour of the park’s Revolutionary monuments.

History buffs can also learn more about American history this summer at sessions on the Pony Express (July 9) and the origins of America’s abolitionist movement, which will be explored June 28 in a lecture on one of the earliest abolitionists, Benjamin Lay. For a look at America’s financial system through the years, join the Museum of American Finance for a walking tour on the history of Wall Street August 11.

Of course, there’s also plenty to look at when it comes to America todayand the numerous political challenges it faces. As the 2018 midterms approach, learn more about America’s voting rights with journalist Ari Berman on July 10, or learn about how one state’s progressive history was undone with an event spotlighting Wisconsin’s politics on July 16. One of the issues Americans will be voting on this November is the economy, and those wanting to learn more about the current financial struggle middle-class families are facing can head to an event on June 28. For a more local look at how cities can reshape policies outside of the federal government’s purview, meanwhile, head to the Brooklyn Historical Society on June 25 for a look at how cities have become the new frontier of progressive change. On June 28, author Vishaan Chakrabarti will delve into cities as a key to change, as he discusses how creative, well-designed urban centers can help to solve many of our national problems.

Two events taking place on June 27 will examine the future of America’s politics. The Rubin Museum will consider the arc of justice and how to ensure that our actions today have an influence, while Foreign Affairs Magazine speculates on the future of transatlantic relations with a conversation between Executive Editor Daniel Kurtz-Phelan and author Romuald Sciora. To mark a worldwide day of solidarity with those affected by drug policies worldwide, the Open Society Foundation will consider how artistic expression can help to reshape drug policies at an event on June 25.

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