BOSTON (WWLP) — Independence Day is just a day away, and lawmakers are honoring the occasion in advance with the reading of a famous 4th of July speech.
160 years ago, Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave, delivered a speech called “
The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro;” giving rare perspective to our national holiday.
Lawmakers and state officials took turns reading Douglass’s speech Tuesday, which talks about the oppression of the British government and how hard-won independence brought justice, liberty and prosperity to a new nation. But, he famously asks, “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?” He answers that it is a day that shows “more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” He talks about how there can be no true liberty and justice until it is provided to all.
“Douglass challenges us in his speech to take responsibility for our country, and tells us we cannot rely on the work of previous generations to create what he calls that ‘Republic of Principle,’” said Pleun Bourcius, Assistant Director of Mass Humanities.
Douglass was a leading abolitionist of his time, and earlier in life had taught himself to read; sometimes by trading food for lessons.
He was lecturer for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, and went on to become a trusted advisor to Abraham Lincoln.
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