Independence National Historical Park will host the annual symbolic ringing of the Liberty Bell this July 4th with the tapping of the famed Liberty Bell 13 times at precisely 2 p.m. EDT, the time designated by the 1963 Joint Resolution 25 of the U.S. Congress. The ceremony known as “Let Freedom Ring” has been sponsored by the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution (PSSR) and its Color Guard since 1969, but this year will be held only as a virtual celebration.
The Bell’s inscription from The Bible, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof” was ordered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter establishing self-government and religious freedom in Pennsylvania.
Originally called the “State House Bell” the bell first became known as the “Liberty Bell” in the 1830s, when it was adopted as a symbol by the abolitionist movement. Women’s suffrage activists, civil rights leaders, and others have used this bell as their symbol in the fight for equality. The Liberty Bell is recognized today as a world-wide symbol of freedom.
This year on July 4th, several descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence will don gloves (and masks) to tap the Bell, including Lucy Duke Tonacci, the incoming President of The Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, who is descended from Virginia’s Richard Henry Lee; and William Douglas Banks II, Joseph Edward Aubrey Banks and Zechariah Williams – three children of Reverend W. Douglas Banks, who is the fifth generation grandson of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.
Independence National Historic Park Superintendent Cynthia MacLeod and Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution President Ben Ramsay Wolf, Sr. will officiate in this brief, safe-distance commemoration.
Lieutenant John Edward James, Jr., will attend as a special guest and honorary bell-tapper. He has just celebrated his 100th birthday and his second year as an officer in the U.S. Army after being denied promotion for his service during World War II because of race. He is a long-time member of the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution. The tapping ceremony will also include Eric Edward L. Guenther, Jr., Captain of the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution’s Color Guard and Ben Ramsay Wolf, President of the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution.
The in-person event at the Liberty Bell Center will signal a worldwide ringing of bells on porches with citizens signaling freedom and liberty with tapping of glasses, pots and pans.
“We anticipate a spontaneous celebration, at exactly 2:00 p.m. when neighbors from all of Philadelphia’s 38 neighborhoods take to their sidewalk or terrace at the precise moment to clink a glass or rap on a pot or ring some Christmas bells they found in their basement as a show of solidarity for liberty,” explained Ben Wolf.
He added, “in the recent weeks with the pandemic and rightful indignation of racial and religious inequalities, everyone is in need of demonstrating a positive way to proclaim the rights and freedoms symbolized by the Liberty Bell.”
Every person in Philadelphia, the region, the nation and around the world can participate and show their expression of freedom with comments, photos and video clips using #LetFreedomRing2020.
The program will be live-streamed globally, with simultaneous bell-ringing participation by United States naval ships around the world as well as churches, historic buildings and institutions across the country who have bells to toll.