July 4th, Frederick Douglass’ Speech

Frederick Douglass' speech on July 4 1852 gives us pause to think about the completed and unfinished business of freedom fighting.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Dunreith’s back, Aidan’s downtown at Grant Park for a concert and we are relaxing watching the recap of the 1980 Borg-McEnroe Wimbledon final before heading to a barbeque.  Earlier today, I took in dear friends Danny Postel and Derrick Milligan winning a 4th of July Over 40s doubles tournament over two brothers named Cano.

It’s also the second Independence Day since Barack Obama became our nation’s first black president.

Whatever one thinks of Obama’s performance, and the critics on the left and right are many, one cannot deny that his election in November 2008 was a landmark event in our nation’s history.

To get some perspective on how far we’ve come, one need only read the words about today’s holiday from the late, great Frederick Douglass. One of the most compelling, talented and accomplished people our nation has ever produced, Douglass wrote three versions of his autobiography, one of which I wrote about last year before Aidan began his A.P. History class.

In one of the works, he wrote about how the Christmas Day celebrations slaveowners used to give their slaves achieved their intended purpose of distracting them from their bondage all the other days of the year.

In a speech he gave on July 4, 1852, he asked and answered the following:

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 sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, 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.

I would be interested in reading what the freedom fighter, journalist, and diplomat would have to say about our nation’s standing relative to its lofty creed.  In the meantime, I wish everyone well and hope Douglass’ words make you savor the freedom we have and give us renewed purpose to keep on fighting to close the gap between our nation’s promises and many people’s lived reality.

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8 responses to “July 4th, Frederick Douglass’ Speech

  1. Perhaps FD would say: “3 dead, 13 wounded last night. Our nightmare in America has not ended, yet.”

  2. love it would love to read it tooooooooo thousand more times

  3. Nice warm intro to a great discussion! Thanks for helping keep the true American Spirit alive.

  4. thank you for that inspirational advice. I am doing a project on Frederick Douglass in school.

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