“What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?”

From the Smithsonian Institute:

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.”

In his speech, Douglass acknowledged the Founding Fathers of America, the architects of the Declaration of Independence, for their commitment to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”:

“Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too, great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory … .

Douglass states that the nation’s founders are great men for their ideals for freedom, but in doing so he brings awareness to the hypocrisy of their ideals with the existence of slavery on American soil. Douglass continues to interrogate the meaning of the Declaration of Independence, to enslaved African Americans experiencing grave inequality and injustice:

“… 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 say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us.

“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

“… Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the ‘lame man leap as an hart.’

But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of 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 light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn …”

–Frederick Douglass, July 5, 1852

This speech given by Frederick Douglass would be remembered as on of his most poignant. Read the speech in full on PBS.



  1. July 5, 1852

    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; 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 the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the 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 a rival….

    1. Cambridge, is that in England?

      I think Cromwell when there. He seemed like a nice guy to the Irish. He and Cambridge England only indenture them a servitude. After he and England slaughtered more half the population and force them on boats the new world away from their homeland to serve them in the new world. On the bright side, they weren’t slaves they were “indentured servants” with no means to leave or go back to the homeland and family if they were still alive. I can see where this Mick (BOB) wants to kill all the white rich politicians. JS

      P.S Comrade not sure if Frederick Douglass knew what was taking place all around the world in 1850 with the internet or CNN. but with a quick wiki search, here were somethings taken place.


  2. “There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”

    How did America stack up to Hitler or your comrade Stalin? How does America stack up today? Ron travels through South America, or the entire globe and tells OIB a country on earth where black people would want to live out their life other than America and be specific. Here are some black countries in Africa.

    Republic of the Congo
    Equatorial Guinea

  3. Frederick Douglass
    …Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from “the Declaration of Independence,” the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. — Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.

    The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. ‘Ethiopia, shall, stretch. out her hand unto Ood.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

    God speed the year of jubilee
    The wide world o’er!
    When from their galling chains set free,
    Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
    And wear the yoke of tyranny
    Like brutes no more.
    That year will come, and freedom’s reign,
    To man his plundered rights again

    God speed the day when human blood
    Shall cease to flow!
    In every clime be understood,
    The claims of human brotherhood,
    And each return for evil, good,
    Not blow for blow;
    That day will come all feuds to end,
    And change into a faithful friend
    Each foe.

    God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
    When none on earth
    Shall exercise a lordly power,
    Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
    But to all manhood’s stature tower,
    By equal birth!
    That hour will come, to each, to all,
    And from his Prison-house, to thrall
    Go forth.

    Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
    With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
    To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
    The spoiler of his prey deprive —
    So witness Heaven!
    And never from my chosen post,
    Whate’er the peril or the cost,
    Be driven.

  4. Hmmm. 1852. That was a long time ago. Certainly it should never be forgotten in history. Thankfully those days are long gone and opportunity abounds in this country for all who want to grab it. Pity the poor fools that don’t subscribe to that fact but only whine and complain about their existence, which must be a very sorrowful one if you listen to some of those poor unfortunate souls. America was never and will never be a perfect place. No where on earth would that ever be the case as well but opportunities here were and are always better than anywhere else. Pity the poor fools that always look back instead of looking forward. Every immigrant that came to this country encountered prejudice. Slavery occurred in every land on the entire globe. Actual physical slavery still exists in different forms in many countries today. Unfortunately it also exists in the minds of individuals who just cannot let the past go and just look forward to making their very own futures better for themselves and their families.
    With that, I say: happy July 4th and happy birthday to the greatest country in history, even with all of its flaws.

    1. Rich, George Santayana, said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned y repeat it.” Rich, have you or your parents or grandparents ever have to worry about being white and what setbacks and roadblocks they would face being white?

      1. You want talk about prejudice. I have a lot of knowledge about that. My parents you ask? My grandparents you ask? When WWII began, my father was 17 when the Soviets invaded Poland and incarcerated him in a Soviet labor camp where they beat him a few times a week like they beat all the people in the camp. His father, my grandfather, was executed with a bullet to the back of his head while his hands were tied behind his back with wire while he stood in front of a mass grave – look up “Katyn Wood Massacre”- where 15,000 were executed in 4 days- all because of prejudice. His whole family, as well as millions of other families, were exterminated because of prejudice. But he chose to risk his life and escape as opposed to accepting his fate. He and many others escaped, they walked 1000 miles in frigid weather to get to freedom, joined armed services, and fought in the RAF – some to their death – for their countries- their freedom and for everyone else’s. Look up and watch a movie on Netflix called “The Way Back” with Ed Harris. I heard many times and many years ago from my dad and his friends about their ordeals, which are portrayed in this movie. Look up and watch “Squadron 303-Hurricane Squadron” a movie made just a few years ago telling the story about my fathers war story. At the end of the war he and his squadron were declared heroes by England and then ordered back to Poland – to the Soviets again. He did not go – those that did were imprisoned again as enemies of the state. My father eventually made his way to USA. He never complained. He never cried. He never blamed. He lived his life understanding that shit happens and sometimes it’s ugly. So no Ron, they didn’t have to worry about being white. They had to only figure out how to not be killed and die at any moment.
        My father ended up here without a penny and a limited knowledge of English. Met and married my mother WHO DIED when I was 2 years old – and he then raised me and my sister by himself. He worked hard and did the right thing. So Ron, he never told me I was owed anything. He taught me to always be honest, follow the rules of life, go to school, and work hard at whatever I did. He taught me to treat people with respect. He would not be happy if all I did was complain about this or that or my lot in life. He taught me that I would get out if it what I put into it. I taught my kids the same, and thankfully, we’re all good.

        1. Rich, thanks for sharing, I notice that you didn’t mentioned anything about being denied any rights in America because they are white. My father serve in World War II in the US Navy on submarine as stewards in the North Pacific, those were the only jobs that blacks could work in no matter the educational level was. Germany prisoners of war were treated better that black soldiers when the troops arrived back in America. My father after serving proudly for his country was treated like the same as it was before he joined the Navy, he was treated like a second class citizen. I enlisted in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War era as a teenager, I serve 4 years as a firefighters and I faced discrimination when stationed in North Carolina, myself and 3 white firefighters were denied service in 3 bars within 30 minutes, we sat down and we were told that they couldn’t serve us but we saw other white firefighters being serve.

          1. I appreciate your story and of course everyone knows about the type of situations, and worse, that you have just shared. My dad was a mechanical engineer but because he was a “foreigner” could not get into a better job-when he arrived here. My point Ron was that he always looked forward and never back about all the injustices that were thrown upon him. He flourished and always was more focused on the future using a positive attitude, rather than dwelling on the past and being negative. If he didn’t he may have been a different person, angry at everything because he had been denied. He was a happy person with many friends many of whom received the same treatment when they arrived here. And Ron that was 70 years ago. A lot has changed since then just like a lot has changed since you walked into that bar.

          2. Rich, the point of On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass speech and James Baldwins writings and interviews demonstrates the frustration and disappointment in America’s hypocrisy. The rights and the promises of the American Constitution and the Preamble were not written to include the black slaves in 1787. Blacks build America with FREE slave labor for 250 years, our women were rape and their children were sold out the same way all slaves were treated. Think about, 250 year of FREE labor, America became rich. It took a civil war to free the slaves but free from what, they had no money, property, no legal protection and it took two more years after the civil war was over before the slaves in Texas found out that they were free and again, free from what? On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass was telling America of their hypocrisy to the world, how America was telling the world that democracy was the best form of government in the world and that they needed to change from their colonialism and stealing of the natural resources from those countries but how could America have the moral authority to dictate to any country to change their form of government when America had a black problem, America was denying blacks the same equal rights that whites have. Baldwin and Douglass both speak about how blacks love America but America didn’t love them because they were black. Blacks have fought and died in every war that America has fought, in fact in World War I over 200,000 were brought over to Paris to fight with most of them were from the South. Many of those black soldiers stay in France because many blacks viewed France as a welcome change from the racism in America.

            Again, I ask, when did blacks and whites become equal? When President 45 motto is, “Make America Great Again,” when was America great for blacks like it is for whites?

  5. James Baldwin, “The American dream and what that meant for the black community”

    Cognitive dissonance is a beast

    “It comes as a great shock around the age of five, or six, or seven, to discover that the country to which you have pledged allegiance along with everyone else has not pledged allegiance to you. It comes as a great shock to discover that Gary Cooper killing off the Indians—when you were rooting for Gary Cooper—the Indians were you. It comes as a great shock to discover the country which is your birth place and to which you owe your life and your identity has not in its whole system of reality evolved any place for you. The disaffection, the demoralization, and the gap between one person and another only on the basis of the color of their skin begins there, and accelerates through a whole lifetime . . . by the time you are 30, you have been through a certain kind of mill, and the most serious effect of the mill you’ve been through is again, not the catalogue of disaster: the policeman, the taxi drivers, the waiters, the landlady, the landlords, the banks, the insurance companies, the millions of details, 24 hours of every day, which spell out to you that you are a worthless human being.”

    Even “good” people can be complicit

    “The other, deeper, element of a certain awkwardness I feel has to do with one’s point of view. I have to put it that way—one’s sense, one’s system of reality. It would seem to me the proposition before the House, and I would put it that way, is the American Dream at the expense of the American Negro, or the American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro. Is the question hideously loaded, and then one’s response to that question—one’s reaction to that question—has to depend on effect and, in effect, where you find yourself in the world, what your sense of reality is, what your system of reality is. That is, it depends on assumptions which we hold so deeply so as to be scarcely aware of them. Are white South African or Mississippi sharecropper, or Mississippi sheriff, or a Frenchman driven out of Algeria, all have, at bottom, a system of reality which compels them to, for example, in the case of the French exile from Algeria, to offend French reasons from having ruled Algeria. The Mississippi or Alabama sheriff, who really does believe, when he’s facing a Negro boy or girl, that this woman, this man, this child must be insane to attack the system to which he owes his entire identity.”

    Black Lives Matter

    “If you walk out of Harlem, ride out of Harlem, downtown, the world agrees what you see is much bigger, cleaner, whiter, richer, safer than where you are. They collect the garbage. People obviously can pay their life insurance. Their children look happy, safe. You’re not. And you go back home, and it would seem that, of course, that it’s an act of God that this is true! That you belong where white people have put you. It is only since the Second World War that there’s been a counterimage in the world. And that image did not come about through any legislation or part of any American government, but through the fact that Africa was suddenly on the stage of the world, and Africans had to be dealt with in a way they’d never been dealt with before. This gave an American Negro for the first time a sense of himself beyond the savage or a clown. It has created and will create a great many conundrums. One of the great things that the white world does not know, but I think I do know, is that Black people are just like everybody else. One has used the myth of Negro and the myth of color to pretend and to assume that you were dealing with, essentially, with something exotic, bizarre, and practically, according to human laws, unknown. Alas, it is not true. We’re also mercenaries, dictators, murderers, liars. We are human, too. What is crucial here is that unless we can manage to accept, establish some kind of dialog between those people whom I pretend have paid for the American dream and those other people who have not achieved it, we will be in terrible trouble.”

  6. Off topic but on topic (Only In Bridgeport) I saw on the CT Post website that a Bpt City Council Committee and the SchoolBuilding omitted approved purchasing Ayer to be named site for the new Bassick location
    I believe this is totally illegal.
    You cannot buy property without public disclosure what it is and how much you are paying for it. Period. Next case.
    Oh I am sure Hamilton Burger cite some made up opinion that it alright under these circumstances. It is not and I don’t care how much it cost and where it is located.
    Not only on the surface but also the mayor had or has a conflict because he has taught as an adjunct professor but also the legal representation for the Board of Ed is the same firm that employs the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for UB the rumored selling party.
    This is. Public purchase of land and or buildings and waiting on the last minutes to spring it on the public is absolutely wrong.
    Let’s see who side Maria takes on this.

  7. The fact that the cities of our country, with a few, notable exceptions, are definable as intentionally- segregated “servants quarters,” keeping working-poor/under-employed/unemployed people of color separated from affluent., largely white, suburban communities that enjoy communities and lifestyles supported on the backs of the urban poor, speaks strongly as to why the Fourth of July is still not a joyous holiday for all Americans…

    Frederick Douglas eloquently acknowledged the prodigious bravery and intellects of our Founding Fathers while still pointing out the huge sins staining a background of greatness…

    And look where we are today. COVID-year 2020. Still not able to present a truly “clean” national face to ourselves, let alone the world…

    And for the OIB community, Bridgeport — with endemic, high unemployment and poverty/income inequality, crime (violence/open drug dealing, drug-related deaths), failed school system, food and housing insecurity, obscenely-high/unaffordable property tax, totally-dysfunctional city government/police department — can be used as a very familiar example of the type of “sin” that still stains our national soul…

    National redemption, like national politics, is ultimately a “local” phenomenon. For national redemption to take form, all of the “Bridgeports” of the country will have to be redeemed/reborn under conditions of fairness and prosperity… That won’t happen in our “Bridgeport” without a state takeover… The COVID DEPRESSION makes this an all-the-more urgent matter…

    It would be a good thing if Governor Lamont could have this whispered in his “political-side” ear…

    1. Jeff, Bridgeport DOES NOT want change because the so call black leadership are scare to set out of place with master Joe and Mario. Just look at last Saturday peace march, “Taking Our Village Back,” were the leaders were a elected City Council member, Rev. Mary Lee and a paid staff member for Mayor Ganim who was also the “Acting” Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, Dr., Rev. Herron Gaston. This march was like let’s not blame systemic racism on our guys, master Joe and Mario, but who did Rev. Lee and Dr. Rev Gaston say who was responsible systemic racism in Bridgeport and what is the plan to fight and change systemic racism. Again, Bridgeport is a city Up South where black elected and the other so call black leadership know how to stay in their place, there will be no change in Bridgeport, it’s business as usual.

  8. Rich Augustynowicz, this is a follow up:

    Ct Post More Insider Stories:
    “Black porters’ union made history on the railroad):
    Jim Cameron July 5, 2020 Updated: July 5, 2020 1:29 p.m.

    Recounting a story from his days as a Pullman porter at his Houston home, Frank Rollins, 93, weeps, next to his wife Patricia, 69, remembering the time while transporting Nazi POWs, he and his fellow African American railcar workers were not allowed to eat at a restaurant because they were black, but the Nazi POWs were allowed to eat at the



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