“The Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”
These were Frederick Douglass’ unyielding words from his momentous “Fifth of July Speech”* to the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester’s Corinthian Hall in 1852.
Douglass had been asked to speak on Independence Day but with entrenched slavery supported by the recently adopted Fugitive Slave law, how could he? After all, he declared with authority, “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and natural justice, embodied in the Declaration of Independence, extended to us….I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary.” But he was included “within the pale” of another anniversary which was annually observed by African Americans in the State, and it was a chief reason why he chose to speak the following day. During this pre-war period, the July 5th Movement captured and shaped blacks’ identity as a cohesive, active community. [Read more…] about Frederick Douglass and the July 5th Movement