July 5, 1852: Frederick Douglass Gave Famous Speech, ‘What To The Slave Is The 4th of July?’

0 Posted by - June 28, 2019 - LATEST POSTS

July 5, 1852: Frederick Douglass gave his famous speech, ‘What To The Slave Is The 4th Of July?’ at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Corinthian Hall, in Rochester, NY.

He told his audience, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” And he asked them, “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?”

Within the now-famous address here is probably the most moving passage in all of Douglass’ speech:

“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. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”

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3 Comments

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  • Claudia MERRILL July 19, 2019 - 12:31 pm Reply

    Fredrick, spoke a truth then that remains today.

  • Ledo Maine July 19, 2019 - 12:43 pm Reply

    Seems to be the status quo today, July 19, 2019. Though we try desperately to help America live up to the vanity titles those on the right laud often, they persist in upholding the antiquated and inhumane prejudices, bigotry, racism, etc–cruelties to their fellow citizens and people around the globe who do not share their skin tones that existed on July 4, 1776, of which Mr. Douglass referenced in his 1852 speech.

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