The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro by Frederick Douglass

“The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro” was a speech Frederick Douglass gave on July 5, 1852 at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence that was held at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall. He actually gives a biting oratory, in which he tells his audience, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” Actor Danny Glover reads abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s “Fourth of July Speech, 1852” as part of a reading from Voices of a People’s History of the United States (Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove) in Los Angeles, CA; enjoy!


A speech given at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall
New York, July 5, 1852

“Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens:

He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country school houses, avails me nothing on the present occasion. Read the rest of this speech  . . .


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