frederick douglass’ fourth of july speech

happy independence day! this declaration of independence says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” ideals to which we all should strive.

frederick douglass 1852 speech– the meaning of july 4th for the negro– is a powerful read. given the current context of black lives matter and race relations in our USA, these are biting words. freedom is a great ideal but is still far from so many in our country and world.

at the risk of taking just part of the speech, there is no context. perhaps this might impel you to read the whole thing or at least this fourth part ( ). ( for the full text )

although we are in a different place now, sometimes we need a shock to our system to spur real change in ourselves and our world. douglass says:

“…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”

but ultimately there is hope:

“…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 obvious tendencies of the age”. what are these tendencies today and who helps us see them? where are the voices like douglass today? is freedom and independence still an ideal we have for all?

i pray the Spirit’s wisdom on our nation as we celebrate our liberty and continue to seek these ideals for all

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