‘What is your fourth of July to me?’

MSR Editorial

Frederick Douglass, July 5, 1852

Oration delivered in Corinthian Hall


Fellow citizens: Pardon me, and 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? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national alter and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

What to an American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of 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, sweating vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy, a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.

There is not a nation on earth guilty of the practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour. Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without rival.


Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – An American Slave


This article was submitted by Jessica Wright, an inmate at Shakopee Correctional facility.


2 Comments on “‘What is your fourth of July to me?’”

  1. How much more the Native American has the right to speak these words (as my father’s ancestors were before the French fur trader assimilated).

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