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Each week at In The Past Lane, the American history podcast, host and Historian-at-Large, Edward T. O’Donnell, brings you news, stories, interviews, and special features on all things U.S. history. His aim is to be both engaging and thought-provoking, inspired by the notion that history explains the world we live in and provides insights into how to achieve a more prosperous, peaceful, and just future. So come along with us as we journey In The Past Lane.  

Jul 3, 2019

It's Independence Day! The perfect occasion for a special episode of In The Past Lane!  This week, we take a close look at the document at the heart of the July 4th celebration -- the Declaration of Independence. There's a lot more to this patriotic piece of parchment than you might think. So here's the lineup: we'll start with a look at three key things about the Declaration and how it came to be -- including the fact that America's actual Independence Day is July 2, not July 4. Next, we examine the fascinating story of how American's understanding of the Declaration changed after 1800 and as a consequence, how it has inspired countless rights movements in the US (women's rights, labor rights, civil rights, etc) and around the world for more than 200 years. Happy July 4th to all!

Episode 154 notes and credits

Recommended Reading

Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence

Edmund S. Morgan, The Birth of the Republic, 1763-89

Backstory podcast, "Pursuits of Happiness" - especially the feature on Frederick Douglass and his famous speech, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (courtesy,

Kevin McCleod, "Impact Moderato" (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, "I Am History" (Free Music Archive)