Published on July 4th, 2018 | by Inspirations with Liz Black0
The 4th of July – A Meditation on the words of Frederick Douglass
One of the most moving speeches by any person who has lived on American soil is Frederick Douglass’ Independence Day speech “What to the Slave is the 4th of July”. With this speech, the famous Orator challenges America’s position on Freedom as much today as when Douglass first spoke the words. Frederick Douglass delivered the speech at Rochester, New York’s Corinthian Hall in 1852 at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. As a man who knew firsthand the throws of enslavement while still living in the time of legal slavery, Douglass addressed the crowd and echoed:
“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?”
Frederick Douglass’ summation of what the day means to a people it was never meant for is clear:
“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 denunciations 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 these United States, at this very hour.”
As barbecues and gatherings commence this 4th of July and while the state of the United States is questioned, it is a good time to reflect on the words of a man that made history as relevant as the injustices within its border exists.