One of the great things about the web is you keep stumbling over things you didn’t expect. The complete text of a speech from FD is reproduced on the interesting blog Afro-netizen (regrettably, the speech is undated, but I’ll guess 1870 or later).

Douglass was asked to speak on the 4th of July, and was rather peeved about it, understandably:

“I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. ”

Check it out! (Ed–thought of you when I saw this. Can you give me any more context to the speech? Where and when?)

Edited to add: And Ed comes through! See comments for details:

On July 5, 1852, Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!

7 Comments

  1. My first reaction is, I’m automatically skeptical of any historical quote that isn’t dated. I’ve seen plenty of quotes attributed to famous men that ended up being apocryphal.

    But, it is certainly an understandable position for Douglass to take. Indeed, in this day of our government practically ignoring the Constitution, to the point of even denying habeas corpus, and the people for the most part seeming so content with this situation, it seems as if our celebrations of Independence Day are all shine and no substance.

    Which brings to mind another Douglass quote: “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the roar of its many waters.”

  2. 1852, according to this collection accompanying the PBS series “African Voices”:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927.html

    During the 1850s, Frederick Douglass typically spent about six months of the year travelling extensively, giving lectures. During one winter — the winter of 1855-1856 — he gave about 70 lectures during a tour that covered four to five thousand miles. And his speaking engagements did not halt at the end of a tour. From his home in Rochester, New York, he took part in local abolition-related events.

    On July 5, 1852, Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall. It was biting oratory, in which the speaker told his audience, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” And he asked them, “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?”

    Within the now-famous address is what historian Philip S. Foner has called “probably the most moving passage in all of Douglass’ speeches.”

    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 sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, 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 the United States, at this very hour.

  3. Hey, I posted an answer (it’s an 1852 speech) — but the post isn’t showing. Did the link send it to your spam file?

  4. 1852, according to this collection accompanying the PBS series “African Voices”:
    wwwDOTpbsDOTorg/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927DOThtml

    During the 1850s, Frederick Douglass typically spent about six months of the year travelling extensively, giving lectures. During one winter — the winter of 1855-1856 — he gave about 70 lectures during a tour that covered four to five thousand miles. And his speaking engagements did not halt at the end of a tour. From his home in Rochester, New York, he took part in local abolition-related events.

    On July 5, 1852, Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall. It was biting oratory, in which the speaker told his audience, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” And he asked them, “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?”

    Within the now-famous address is what historian Philip S. Foner has called “probably the most moving passage in all of Douglass’ speeches.”

    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 sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, 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 the United States, at this very hour.

  5. Shane, that’s a great quote. Got a citation?

  6. That’s very odd–your comment did shoot off int to the spam bucket, and then it let you post the very same thing a minute later!!
    The WordPress spam thing is useful, but wonky.

    Thanks for the date–I knew you’d have it :)

  7. I took out the live link in the reposting. You may have your filter set to stop all links, maybe?

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