Frederick Douglass on the Fourth of July

Keisha N. Blain SAVE THIS

Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a younger man, 1855 (J.C. Buttre, Wikimedia Commons).
In recognition of the Fourth of July, The North Star revisits Fredrick Douglass’s famous speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” (1852). Delivered at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York, on July 5, 1852, the speech confronted the hypocrisy of white Americans who celebrated ‘freedom and democracy’ in a nation with four million enslaved Black people. The speech was arguably Douglass’s most influential speech, and more than 150 years later, its core message remains as relevant as ever. The following is an abridged version. The full text of the speech can be found here. 

…Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of…

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    Reading this slowly, to receive the full impact of each word, just bring tears to my eyes. To fathom what our ancestors endured saddens me but strengthens me also cause the fight for equality continues.

    • Heidi Kennedy

      My ancestors were the bad ones ~ whites, but at least my family is from the north. You may not believe me, but nothing infuriates like racial prejudice and animal abuse. I can’t wrap my brain around ANYONE thinking they’re better than anyone else. My mom raised me by this: she said “there’s only one race and that’s the human race and that’s all you need to know “. Even though I was young, I’d already figured that out myself but God bless her. Please just know that I love you as an EQUAL and fellow human being. I don’t have to know you. And please know that not all of us white people DON’T hate or look down on you…only the really screwed up ones…like frump supporters…take care and I love that speech!!😇💜🐾🙏

  • grrtngoo

    “… I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July!”

  • Carolyn Fleming

    Even through we are not enslaved at this time we need to remember at all times that 4 million African was in slavery when Frederick Douglas made his speech 1855. I wonder what he would say now .

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