To America, on her 235th Birthday

My brother and I are currently sitting inside our apartment watching 1776, having made the right choice to forgo watching fireworks from the riverside park. I don’t think it’s raining anymore, but it must be uncomfortably muggy and damp by now.

I’ve seen this speech referenced more than a few times on the internet today, yet it’s the first time I’ve heard of it. Frederick Douglass was asked to speak at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall as part of a 4th of July celebration, which he did, on July 5th 1852.1 More than 150 years before Stephen Colbert threw down shade at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, showing up the very people that invited him, Douglass did it first.

It’s of the TL;DR sort, but worth it:

“I am not included within the pale of this 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 life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] 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. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, lowering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin!”


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