Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
|One of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence will be on display at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute January 10 through 20.|
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” With those words, the foundation of American freedom was set in place three centuries ago. An original copy of the Declaration of Independence (owned by television producer Norman Lear) is currently on a three-and-a-half year journey across the United States, and will make a 10-day stop in Birmingham.
After two days of editing Thomas Jefferson’s text for the Declaration of Independence, the Second Continental Congress, led by John Hancock, approved a final draft of the document on July 4, 1776. That night a Philadelphia printer named John Dunlap printed approximately 200 “broadsides” of the document (a broadside is about the size of a full sheet of newspaper.) The next morning, one copy was entered into the Congressional Journal, while most of the remaining manuscripts were delivered to the colonies by couriers on horseback so the document could be read in town squares throughout the nation. Contrary to popular myth, Congress did not sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4. Instead, they waited for all 13 colonies to ratify it before signing on August 2.
In 1989, only 24 original Dunlap broadsides were known to exist until a flea market patron bought a framed painting for $4. While examining a tear in the painting, the purchaser discovered a Dunlap broadside behind the canvas.
The Declaration of Independence will be on display at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute January 10 through 20. In addition to the document, the exhibit includes historical photographs and video of social and political movements throughout the nation’s history. There is also a 14-minute film hosted by Norman Lear and Rob Reiner. Call 328-9696 for more information. -Ed Reynolds