Frederick Douglass on July 5th, 1852, in a speech to the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society gave his now-famous speech, “What To The Slave Is Fourth of July?” Listen to a reenactment of his full speech on YouTube compliments of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.
In it, he criticized the nation, its day of independence and the limits of its supposed freedoms for all: “I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us.”
Many in our country may struggle to feel included in the celebration on July 4th, a celebration meant to praise a vow made long ago to uphold liberty and justice for all.
Frederick Douglas’ speech 168 years ago is still relevant today. The Fourth of July is not yet a celebration of freedom for all.