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What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

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What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July? (1852) is a novella by Frederick Douglass. Having escaped from slavery in the South at a young age, Frederick Douglass became a prominent orator and autobiographer who spearheaded the American abolitionist movement in the mid-nineteenth century. In this famous speech, published widely in pamphlet form after it was given to a meeting of the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society on July 5th, 1852, Douglass exposes the hypocrisy of America’s claim to Christian and democratic ideals in spite of its legacy of enslavement. Personal and political, Douglass’ speech helped inspire the burgeoning abolitionist movement, which fought tirelessly for emancipation in the decades leading up to the American Civil War. “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?...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.” Drawing upon his own experiences as an escaped slave, Douglass offers a critique of American independence from the perspective of those who had never been free within its borders. Hopeful and courageous, Douglass’ voice remains an essential part of our history, reminding us time and again who we are, who we have been, and what we can be as a nation. While much of his radical message has been smoothed over through the passage of time, its revolutionary truth continues to resonate today. With a beautifully designed cover and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of Frederick Douglass’ What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July? is a classic of African American literature reimagined for modern readers.

ISBN-13: 9781513290973

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Mint Editions

Publication Date: 04-23-2021

Pages: 30

Product Dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

Series: Mint Editions-Black Narratives

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was an African American abolitionist, writer, statesman, and social reformer. Born in Maryland, he escaped slavery at the age of twenty with the help of his future wife Anna Murray Douglass, a free Black woman from Baltimore. He made his way through Delaware, Philadelphia, and New York City—where he married Murray—before settling in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In New England, he connected with the influential abolitionist community and joined the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, a historically black denomination which counted Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman among its members. In 1839, Douglass became a preacher and began his career as a captivating orator on religious, social, and political matters. He met William Lloyd Garrison, publisher of anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator, in 1841, and was deeply moved by his passionate abolitionism. As Douglass’ reputation and influence grew, he traveled across the country and eventually to Ireland and Great Britain to advocate on behalf of the American abolitionist movement, winning countless people over to the leading moral cause of the nineteenth century. He was often accosted during his speeches and was badly beaten at least once by a violent mob. His autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845) was an immediate bestseller that detailed Douglass’ life in and escape from slavery, providing readers a firsthand description of the cruelties of the southern plantation system. Towards the end of his life, he became a fierce advocate for women’s rights and was the first Black man to be nominated for Vice President on the Equal Rights Party ticket, alongside Presidential candidate Victoria Woodhull. Arguably one of the most influential Americans of all time, Douglass led a life dedicated to democracy and racial equality.

Read an Excerpt

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 denunciations 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 these United States, at this very hour.