“What to the Slave is Your 4th of July?”

Talk about speaking truth to power: In 1852, Frederick Douglass responded to an invitation by the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Association to deliver a speech for their 4th of July celebration by unleashing his legendary “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” address to an audience that included President Millard Fillmore and other politicians, as well as Douglass’ fellow abolitionists.

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity.”

Our partners at the Poor People’s Campaign are asking clergy to preach on Douglass’ speech this holiday weekend. In that spirit, we link here to a recording of Ossie Davis reading the speech for a Smithsonian record and a link to the full speech , including analysis.