Independence Day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 during the American Revolution.

The legal separation of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain actually occurred two days earlier. On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. After voting to declare the U.S. free of Great Britain, Congress then began to debate and revise the wording of the Declaration of Independence, a statement to explain its decision, which had been prepared by a committee with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Although Congress officially approved the document on July 4, members did not sign until about a month later.

The Declaration of Independence reads, in part:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Most Americans celebrate the Fourth of July as well as their history and traditions by attending or hosting public and private events, including fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, and picnics. Click through our slideshow for some inspirational freedom quotes and thoughts on independence.