Created Equal: Race, and America's Incomplete Grade


The Declaration of Independence is part of American history that I didn’t truly appreciate in grade school. We call July 4 “Independence Day,” but not because that’s the day the 13 colonies broke free of British rule. It’s the day a group of leaders signed onto a particular argument for independence.

In Created Equal, Lesson 11 of The Black Experience in America: The Course, we explore that argument. I think it set the new country on a collision course with slavery.

The Founding Fathers had to invoke a power higher than the monarchy to justify their revolution. So they appealed to the Creator, and the idea that “all men are created equal.” Well, then how could Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrote those words, own slaves? The simple answer is that he argued that Black people didn't fully count.

That idea, of course, doesn't hold up to scrutiny. One example: Phillis Wheatley, pictured above, the first African-American author of a published book of poetry. She was enslaved in Massachusetts, learned to read and write, and could read classics in Latin and Greek.

Through their intellect, bravery and defiance, African Americans like Phillis Wheatley, and the Black soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War, would put pressure back on America's founding ideals. Unless that pressure brings change, the work of the Declaration will have to be marked “incomplete.”

Download the free PDF of The Course at for a full look at Lesson 11.

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The Course Online: An Update

Meanwhile, I’m hard at work on the third lesson in The Course that I’m bringing online: Lesson 16, Multiculturalism. So far dozens adults have signed up for one or both of the lessons at in the first few weeks, and I’m happy to say the feedback has been strongly positive. My goal is to have that next lesson available shortly, with a lot more to come. In the meantime, as we look ahead to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in a week, consider purchasing the Civil Rights lesson now to add to the weekend observances, and maybe giving the lesson as a gift to others:

Learn about the Civil Rights Movement in an engaging, interactive format.

And, as I mentioned above, I’ve made it easy for you to purchase a lesson as a gift:

New: Buy a $5 lesson in The Course for someone else! Fully-paid access to an interactive lesson will go to the email address of your choice. This is a great option for introducing kids to the lessons.