What to The Slave is The Fourth of July? Frederick Douglass

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a keynote address at an Independence Day celebration and asked, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” Douglass was a powerful orator, often traveling six months out of the year to give lectures on abolition. His speech was delivered at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York. It was a scathing speech in which Douglass stated, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine, You may rejoice, I must mourn.”

Members and Staff of The Riverside Church put together a video montage reading a few excerpts that were particularly relevant to today, in Frederick Douglass’ exact words, and used previous examples from readings by both James Earl Jones and Danny Glover to have the most impactful parts of the speech in a five-minute reading. Watch the video below.

A Frederick Douglass Reading by The Riverside Family

Read the Full Speech