Reading Frederick Douglass Together

**UPDATE** Our first reading event was a huge success! See below for images from the event. Special thanks to Bow Market and Mass Humanities for helping us make this event happen. Hopefully, this will become annual.


Link to Declaration of Independence (selected passages)

How: The Somerville Museum received a sponsorship from Mass Humanities to coordinate a public reading of Frederick Douglass’s famous Fourth of July address, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” Mass Humanities gives these sponsorships annually for readings by organizations with communities around the state. A group of people take turns reading parts of the speech until they have read all of it. Where and how they do it and what they do before and after, are all up to the local event planners.

What: “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” is the title now given to a speech by Frederick Douglass delivered on July 5, 1852, in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, New York, addressing the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. The speech may be the most widely known of all his writings except his autobiographies.

While referring to the celebrations of the American Independence day the day before, the speech explores the constitutional and values-based arguments against the Slave trade within the United States. Douglass suggests that positive statements about American values, such as liberty, citizenship, and freedom, were an offense to the enslaved people of the United States because of their lack of freedom, liberty, and citizenship. Douglass refers to the captivity of enslaved people, their exploitation and the cruelty and torture to which they were subjected while enslaved.

Why: We read this speech because Douglass’ words are still relevant today. It opens up a discussion on race and citizenship and it’s important to continue this conversation.