Sunday, July 6, 2008

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?

From Guardian America

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? A day that reveals gross injustice and cruelty.

This is an abridged version of the July 4 oration delivered by Frederick Douglass to the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society, 1852.

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the Fourth of July. It is the birthday of your national independence, and of your political freedom.... It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act and that day.... I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation's destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes and at whatever cost....

Fellow citizens - pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? ... Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! ... But, such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me.... This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.


Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.... No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light.

Read the full text of Fredick Douglass's oration.

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