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Frederick Douglass- What to the Slave is your Fourth of July

June 29 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Frederick Douglass What is the Slave to the Fourth of July

The Monadnock Center will host a reading of Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave is your Fourth of July?” on Saturday, June 29 at noon in Bass Hall.

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and heroic orator for liberty, delivered one of his most famous speeches in which he asked, “What to the slave is your Fourth of July?” In addressing an Independence Day observance in Rochester, New York, his speech was a blistering indictment of an American idealism that ignored and accepted the inhuman treatment of enslaved African Americans as part of the country’s identity and economy. Ironically, even though Douglass’ words spoke directly to that moment in history, they still ring with an unsettling power today.

A fiery orator, Douglass’s speeches were often published in various abolitionist newspapers. Among his well-known speeches is “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” presented in Rochester, New York, on July 5, 1852, a version of which he published as a booklet. There were approximately 500 attendees who heard him speak.

Douglass had been invited to speak about what the Fourth of July means for America’s black population. The first part of his speech praises what the founding fathers did for this country but his speech soon develops into a condemnation of the attitude of American society toward slavery.

Two of Douglass’ speaking tours in New England included speeches in Peterborough in the 1840s.

The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire has coordinated 16 New Hampshire communities to simultaneously read Douglass’ famous speech. Learn more about the statewide readings HERE.

If you would like to be a reader for the Peterborough event, please get in touch with the Monadnock Center at (603) 924-3235.

The reading is free admission. All are welcome.


June 29
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
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Bass Hall: Monadnock Center for History and Culture
19 Grove St
Peterborough, NH 03458 United States
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