“…What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: …mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages…”
**i try to read this every year around this time, as it’s not only a piece of oratory genius, but a necessary validation of the crushing irony of the united state’s independence day celebration. apparently in 1852, the leading citizens of rochester, NY thought it was a good idea to ask a former slave to speak at their 4th of july festivities. escaped slave frederick douglass accepted, and on July 5th, 1852 (11 years before the emancipation proclamation), proceeded to deliver a thoroughly scathing critique of a nation celebrating its own liberty while holding nearly four million of its inhabitants in bondage. Douglass began:**
“Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? 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? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us? …I am not that man.
“…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. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? Continue reading