What Happened on July 2 in American History?

by oaeen
The Amistad Mutiny

July 2nd has been a significant date in American history, marked by pivotal events that have shaped the nation’s political, social, and cultural landscape. This article explores some of the most important occurrences on this date, examining their historical contexts and lasting impacts on the United States.

1776: The Adoption of the Lee Resolution

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Lee Resolution, which declared the American colonies independent from British rule. This decision was a precursor to the formal adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4.

The Lee Resolution, proposed by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia on June 7, 1776, stated: “Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” The resolution was a bold statement of the colonies’ intent to break away from British rule, driven by increasing dissatisfaction with British policies and governance.

The decision to adopt the Lee Resolution was not unanimous or immediate. Debates and discussions ensued, and it took nearly a month for the Continental Congress to reach a consensus. The adoption of the resolution on July 2 was a critical step in the journey towards American independence, symbolizing the colonies’ determination to establish their sovereignty.

John Adams, a prominent advocate for independence, believed that July 2 would be celebrated as the most memorable day in American history. In a letter to his wife Abigail, Adams wrote, “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.” While July 4 ultimately became the celebrated Independence Day, July 2 remains a significant date in the history of American independence.

1839: The Amistad Mutiny

On July 2, 1839, a group of African captives aboard the Spanish schooner La Amistad, led by Sengbe Pieh (also known as Joseph Cinqué), revolted against their captors. This mutiny led to a landmark legal case that had profound implications for the abolitionist movement in the United States.

The captives, who had been illegally taken from Sierra Leone and sold into slavery, seized control of the ship, killing the captain and part of the crew. They demanded to be returned to Africa, but the remaining crew deceived them and sailed the ship northward along the American coast. The Amistad was eventually intercepted by the U.S. Navy off the coast of Long Island, New York, and the Africans were imprisoned.

The legal battle that followed reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the captives in 1841. The Court determined that the Africans had been illegally enslaved and had the right to fight for their freedom. The case was a significant victory for the abolitionist movement and highlighted the growing tensions over slavery in the United States.

1881: The Assassination of James A. Garfield

On July 2, 1881, President James A. Garfield was shot by Charles J. Guiteau at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, D.C. Garfield succumbed to his injuries on September 19, 1881, making him the second U.S. president to be assassinated.

Garfield had been in office for only a few months when Guiteau, a disgruntled office seeker, shot him. Guiteau believed he was owed a government position due to his support of Garfield’s presidential campaign. When his demands were not met, he sought revenge through violence.

The shooting of Garfield highlighted the dangers of the patronage system, where government jobs were awarded based on political connections rather than merit. This tragedy led to a public outcry for civil service reform, culminating in the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883. This act established a merit-based system for federal employment, significantly reducing corruption and favoritism in government hiring.

1921: The Resolution of the Chinese Exclusion Act

On July 2, 1921, the United States signed a treaty with China to officially end the Chinese Exclusion Act, a series of laws that had severely restricted Chinese immigration to the United States since 1882. The treaty aimed to improve diplomatic relations between the two countries and address the discriminatory policies that had targeted Chinese immigrants.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States. It was enacted in response to economic fears and racial prejudices, particularly on the West Coast, where Chinese laborers were often scapegoated for economic downturns and unemployment among white workers.

The 1921 treaty marked a shift in U.S. immigration policy and was a step towards more equitable treatment of Chinese immigrants. However, it was not until the Magnuson Act of 1943 that the Chinese Exclusion Act was fully repealed, allowing for the naturalization of Chinese immigrants and the restoration of basic civil rights.

1964: The Civil Rights Act Signed into Law

On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. This landmark legislation outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and ended segregation in public places.

The Civil Rights Act was a culmination of decades of struggle by civil rights activists. The efforts of leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and many others brought national attention to the injustices faced by African Americans.

The act marked a significant victory in the Civil Rights Movement, leading to further progress in the fight for equality. It paved the way for subsequent legislation, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The Civil Rights Act remains a foundational piece of legislation in American history, symbolizing the nation’s commitment to justice and equality.

1966: The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

On July 2, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) into law. This act established the public’s right to access records from any federal agency, promoting transparency and accountability in government.

FOIA has been a critical tool for journalists, researchers, and citizens seeking information about government activities. The act allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government. It has played a vital role in exposing corruption, inefficiency, and misconduct within government agencies.

Over the years, FOIA has been amended to address new challenges and expand its scope. Despite its limitations and the challenges of implementation, FOIA remains a cornerstone of open government in the United States.

1982: Larry Walters’ Lawn Chair Flight

On July 2, 1982, Larry Walters, a truck driver from California, achieved fame by flying a lawn chair rigged with helium balloons. Walters ascended to an altitude of about 16,000 feet before safely descending. This unusual flight captured the public’s imagination and earned Walters a place in aviation history.

Larry Walters, also known as “Lawnchair Larry,” attached 45 helium-filled weather balloons to a lawn chair and set off from his backyard in San Pedro, California. His plan was to float about 30 feet above the ground for a few hours, but he quickly ascended to a much higher altitude. Walters drifted into controlled airspace near Los Angeles International Airport, causing concern among air traffic controllers and pilots.

After approximately 45 minutes in the air, Walters began his descent by using a pellet gun to shoot out some of the balloons. He landed safely in Long Beach, California, and was promptly arrested by local authorities. Walters’ flight became a media sensation, and he was widely celebrated for his adventurous spirit.

The event highlighted the creativity and daring of individuals willing to push the boundaries of conventional aviation. It also raised questions about airspace regulation and safety, leading to increased scrutiny of unregulated flight activities.

1990: The Introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

On July 2, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed by the U.S. Senate. This landmark civil rights law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places open to the general public.

The ADA was a major step forward in the fight for disability rights, building on the efforts of earlier legislation such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The act was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush on July 26, 1990, and it has had a profound impact on improving accessibility and opportunities for people with disabilities.

The ADA’s provisions have led to significant changes in building codes, public transportation systems, and employment practices. It has also increased awareness of the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and promoted greater inclusion and equality in American society.

2002: The Founding of the Department of Homeland Security

On July 2, 2002, President George W. Bush announced the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a major restructuring of the federal government in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The DHS was officially established later that year, on November 25, 2002, when the Homeland Security Act was signed into law.

The Department of Homeland Security was created to consolidate various federal agencies and functions related to national security and emergency management. Its primary mission is to protect the United States from terrorist attacks, manage border security, enforce immigration laws, and respond to natural and man-made disasters.

The establishment of DHS marked a significant shift in the U.S. government’s approach to national security, emphasizing coordination and integration across multiple agencies. It also reflected the evolving nature of threats to national security in the 21st century and the need for a comprehensive and adaptive response.


July 2 has been a date of remarkable significance in American history, marked by events that have shaped the nation’s identity and progress. From the adoption of the Lee Resolution in 1776 to the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, and from landmark legal decisions to extraordinary individual achievements, this date reflects the dynamic and multifaceted nature of American history. By examining these events, we gain a deeper understanding of the challenges, triumphs, and enduring legacy of the United States.

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