Most of us are familiar with the story of the 4th of July – when the Declaration of Independence was signed by America’s Founding Fathers. It marked a new beginning, a new nation – a democratic one, at that. No more rule from the English Crown. No more taxation without representation. The citizens of the newfound nation have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.
Among the most thriving cities of the United States today, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., have some of the richest historical sites of the Revolutionary War – yet some may not realize!
Known as the greatest city in the world, New York is also the most diverse city in the world, home to 8+ million people. But did you know that prior and during the Revolution, it served as the nation’s first capital, where the earliest Congress of the colonies was formed, where the Bill of Rights (first ten amendments of the Constitution) were adopted, where the Constitution itself was established, as well as George Washington’s inauguration as the first US president in April of 1789.
On a sad note, New York also had the highest casualties during the Revolution and the city also saw its largest battle. In 1776, much of the city was burned down by British troops, after driving out Patriots. There aren’t many historical buildings left, save for Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel in downtown Manhattan, due to said fire and many other buildings being torn down for new construction during the 19th century. The landmarks that are left weren’t designated as “landmarks” until 1896 where “New York City” became known as the collection of the five boroughs we all know and love today: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island. If you want to keep the kids’ minds thinking and learning while they’re off school during the summer, there is a designated “Freedom Trail” in the city today.
New York’s Hispanic population has really grown, and will continue to grow every day. According to Pew Research, NYC’s Hispanic population, as of 2011, is just over 2 million and many have seen how well they have contributed to this great city!
Heading to New England, Boston is responsible for kick-starting the Revolution with the Boston Tea Party in December 1773. Tea was a staple of the colonies but it was heavily taxed and Bostonians felt that enough was enough.
On a recent trip to the home of the Red Sox, I had a chance to visit the Boston Tea Party Museum where reenactments of the Boston Tea Party, from the secret meeting to throwing the “tea” into the harbor, are held, and visitors can be a part of the action. As for the War itself, the opening phase was the Siege of Boston, from April 1775 to March 1776, where British troops occupied its harbors for that time then fled to what is known today as Nova Scotia, Canada.
As Boston has expanded beyond its founding harbors, it also has expanded multiculturally. As of 2011, according to Pew Research, the Hispanic population is just over 400,000, being mostly of Puerto Rican, Dominican and Salvadorian decent, with native-born Hispanics outnumbering foreign-born.
Known as the city of “brotherly love”, Philadelphia served as the nation’s secondary capital as well as the main capital during the Revolutionary War. This was also the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed by the Second Continental Congress. Much of the city’s historical sites have
been preserved, such as the home and printing press workshop of the very familiar Benjamin Franklin, who was an outstanding citizen of Philadelphia, as well as the famous Liberty Bell. The city saw very little fighting during the War; one example is the Philadelphia campaign, where British troops took control of the city then later lost it – without a single shot fired!
As this is yet another thriving and bustling city, Philadelphia raised up its youngest judge to serve on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 1981 and the first Hispanic in this position in Pennsylvania history – the Honorable Nelson A. Diaz, who is also a former Latino Trendsetter Award recipient. According to the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Philly had a 46% growth in its Hispanic population from 2000 to 2010.
The final and current US capital, Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia) was founded in 1790 by George Washington himself. In creating this new capital, Washington was advised by his congress to lay out a 10-mile square somewhere along the Potomac River, which flows between Maryland and Virginia. It was an ideal location because it was a central location of America before the western expansion. This “square” on the map was made into a diamond by Washington but it, sadly, didn’t last very long. Since this location was in “slave state” territory, yet the Maryland side was pro-abolition and the Virginia side was pro-slavery, Alexandria, Virginia broke away which thus gave us the District’s borders we have today.
Washington oversaw the construction of the White House, though he never lived in it. John and Abigail Adams were the White House’s first residents and Thomas Jefferson was the first to be inaugurated in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol Building, and within the District of Columbia itself, while the building was still under construction.
Washington, D.C., has expanded into Virginia today, where the Pentagon and CIA are located, and has seen its first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor be appointed by President Obama. Much of DC’s Hispanic population is of Salvadorian decent, which is 32.4% of the 800,000+ overall Latino population, according to Pew Research. The District’s metropolitan area is also home to the highest Salvadorian population compared to the other metropolitan-area-cities in the continental US.
But did you know that the start of the strongest nation in the world today may have inspired revolutions in Latin America and the Caribbean? Just decades after America’s victory of independence, Haiti won its independence from France at the start of 1804 and from there, a series of revolutions won the independence from English, Spanish and regional colonizers.