4th of July Celebration - 2024

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“What to the Slave Is 4th of July?”: James Earl Jones Reads Frederick Douglass’s Historic Speech

"What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" was a speech delivered by Frederick Douglass on July 5, 1852, at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York, at a meeting organized by the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society. In the address, Douglass states that positive statements about perceived American values, such as liberty, citizenship, and freedom, were an offense to the enslaved population of the United States because they lacked those rights. Douglass referred not only to the captivity of enslaved people, but to the merciless exploitation and the cruelty and torture that slaves were subjected to in the United States.

Noted for its biting irony and bitter rhetoric, and acute textual analysis of the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Christian Bible, the speech is among the most widely known of all of Douglass's writings. Many copies of one section of it, beginning in paragraph 32, have been circulated online. Due to this and the variant titles given to it in various places, and the fact that it is called a July Fourth Oration but was actually delivered on July 5, some confusion has arisen about the date and contents of the speech. The speech has since been published under the above title in The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series One, Vol. 2. (1982).

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Black Americans Reflect On Patriotism, July 4th Holiday Amid National Racial Unrest

by Juana Summers

The Fourth of July is a day when a lot of us reflect on the promises of this country. But right now, we're confronting the fact that those promises are not equally fulfilled. The U.S. is experiencing a reckoning over the fact that the promises of America are not fulfilled equally.  NPR's Juana Summers had a series of conversations with Black Americans to ask what patriotism means to them as they share how they experience patriotism ahead of the July Fourth celebration.