So I’m sure you all know it is February 1 – the first day of Black History Month. In part, Black History Month is February because the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass was born in February.
In honor of him, I’d like to highlight one of his most famous speeches, “What to The Slave is the 4th of July,” about the hypocrisy of celebrating American Emancipation when its Black citizens could celebrate no such thing.
My favorite quote:
“My subject, then, fellow citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine. I do not hesitate to declare with all my soul that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the Constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! ‘I will not equivocate, I will not excuse’; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, shall not confess to be right and just….”