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Modern Voices
Colin Powell on the Declaration of Independence and how it applied to black people
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Q: The Declaration of Independence is unprecedented, a watershed moment in the nation. How did it apply to black people?
Colin Powell

A: The Declaration of Independence is one of the most remarkable documents in the world, and certainly in the English language or in Christendom. And in just a few words, it captures the essence. You know, "inalienable rights", rights not given to you by the state but given to you by God, so they can't be taken away. And the purpose of the state is to secure these rights, not to give them to you or to tell you what you're supposed to do with them, but to secure those rights for you.

What are those rights? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. "We hold these truths to be self-evident." In other words, you don't have to prove them. It's self-evident. Why is it self-evident? Came from God. They're inalienable. Government secures them. Remarkable document. It didn't apply to black folks.
General Colin Powell
Former Head of The Joint Chiefs of Staff

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