Monday, July 4, 2011

Frederick Douglass on July 4th

This being July 4th, the celebration of the nation's independence, I habitually turn to the words of the great Frederick Douglass, from a speech he delivered in 1852, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro." I see this personal ritual as a way of paying homage to and remembering the sacrifices of ancestors who made it possible for me and those of my generation to be where we are today and a reminder of how far we have come as a people and how much further we need to go. In part, Douglass noted with characteristic rhetorical flourish:

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.

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About Me

Alexandria, VA, United States
'To see what is in front of one's nose requires a constant struggle." - George Orwell