Community Reading of Frederick Douglass' "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"

The 2nd Annual Community Reading of Frederick Douglass' "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July" was recorded on Tuesday, July 5, 2022. Click here for the YouTube video


Fifty-three people including me, read excerpts from the speech and, with other participants, listened to it together. I'm grateful to Princeton United Methodist Church for asking me to represent them on this auspicious occasion. It was a beautiful reading of such a powerful speech - incredibly moving and inspiring!  Kudos to the coordinators, organizers, community partners, members, and all participants at this momentous event. 


This influential historic address, delivered by Frederick Douglass one day after the signing of the American Declaration of Independence, is one of the most profound pieces of oratory ever heard. I hope everyone will read it in its entirety. It would change minds. Two quotations on his feelings for the slaves and what they were going through that resonate with many people is when Douglass says: "What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim," and "This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice; I must mourn."


Frederick Douglass was a formerly enslaved black man who fought for the abolition of slavery before and during the American Civil War. He gave his famous speech at age 34 in 1852 at the newly constructed Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York, to some 600 people, including Abolitionists, all invited by the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society. Nine years later, the Civil War started. According to a newspaper report, "when Douglass finished his stirring speech and was seated, 'there was a universal applause.' His words stimulated deep thoughts, showed falseness, and addressed a call to action; "Not light is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake." "This speech received overwhelming validation and sold over seven hundred copies for fifty cents each," the newspaper added. Frederick Douglass may be long dead, but his words ring true in our ears as we fight for liberty, justice, and equality for all people.


You can share this program with others - the recording is also available HERE

.Written by Isabella Dougan