Limited Debate The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro

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James N.

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"The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" - before Emancipation, pretty much what Douglass says; afterward. it was the sine qua non: lacking Jefferson's rhetoric, insincere and incomplete in this respect as it was, there would've been nothing on which to frame the eventual idea that it should apply to everyone. . Notably, the 1st Rhode Island Rgt. was mainly made up of free blacks and Native Americans and served at the battle of Newport in 1778; above, park dedicated to their service there. (Unfortunately, it's equally possible Douglass had little or no knowledge of and therefore no appreciation for their service as well; since he too was mainly generalizing he probably wouldn't have cared anyway either.)

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On this day July 5 1852 in Rochester, New York, Frederick Douglass gave one of his most famous speeches.

He was asked to speak before a white audience about the meaning of the 4th of July to the black population.

In his scathing oratory Douglass rebuked the American society's attitude towards slavery.

"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."

Full speech:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927t.html
Thanks for sharing this excerpt. Sadly, the PBS text is not the full speech: Douglass published his address in a 39-page pamphlet!
It is important that the entirety of Douglass' remarks be read and understood. They were made in 1852 when he was arguing for the abolition of slavery and were meant to emphasize the inequality of that institution.
Importantly, after painting the shared evil of slavery, Douglass ended with great optimism, knowing that our government conceived in liberty was well suited to resolve the inequities of slavery.
Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably, work the downfall of slavery. 'The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain.​
I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from ‘the Declaration of Independence,’ the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.​
<Oration Delivered in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, by Frederick Douglass, July 5, 1852.
http://www.lib.rochester.edu/IN/RBSCP/Frederick_Douglass/ATTACHMENTS/Douglass_Fifth_of_July_Speech.pdf >
 

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Yes, so sad yet true... July 4th is "U Lie" Jokes on US Black Folks!
I won't pretend to speak for "US Black Folks". However, when one reads the entire text, it is clear that Douglass was optimistic about slavery's demise in America, the one nation he believed was uniquely equipped by our Founders to assure equality.
 

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***Posted as Moderator***
Please stay on-topic: Frederick Douglass' July 5, 1852 address to the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society.
Avoid introducing current socio-political issues into the discussion as they are beyond the scope of this Forum.
 

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"The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" - before Emancipation, pretty much what Douglass says; afterward. it was the sine qua non: lacking Jefferson's rhetoric, insincere and incomplete in this respect as it was, there would've been nothing on which to frame the eventual idea that it should apply to everyone. . Notably, the 1st Rhode Island Rgt. was mainly made up of free blacks and Native Americans and served at the battle of Newport in 1778; above, park dedicated to their service there. (Unfortunately, it's equally possible Douglass had little or no knowledge of and therefore no appreciation for their service as well; since he too was mainly generalizing he probably wouldn't have cared anyway either.)

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I won't pretend to speak for "US Black Folks". However, when one reads the entire text, it is clear that Douglass was optimistic about slavery's demise in America, the one nation he believed was uniquely equipped by our Founders to assure equality.
Thanks for the reply. It peaks my curiosity as to why Mr. Douglass speaks with such eloquence in his indictment against the US in particular by apt note that "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" (emphasis added).

And "US Black Folks" meant United States residents who descended from slaves held as chattel property and thus excluded from 1776 Declaration of Independence provisions by law. This is not a matter of personal opinion or individual preference - but historical fact. So, I felt my reference is accurate in that context.
 
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For those of you who are wondering why Douglass gave this speech on July 5 and not July 4, it is because Douglass felt he could not celebrate July 4 due to the conditions of slaves.
 

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Douglass gave this speech on July 5 and not July 4, because he could not celebrate July 4 due to the conditions of slaves.
Wow! Up to now, I was given to understand that audience members' July 4th holiday festivities precluded Mr. Douglass' public address until the next day. Especially for this audience of women who were forbidden to travel away from home back then unless they had a chaperone, etc.
 
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Thanks for the reply. It peaks my curiosity as to why Mr. Douglass speaks with such eloquence in his indictment against the US in particular by apt note that "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" (emphasis added).

And "US Black Folks" meant United States residents who descended from slaves held as chattel property and thus excluded from 1776 Declaration of Independence provisions by law. This is not a matter of personal opinion or individual preference - but historical fact. So, I felt my reference is accurate in that context.
Thanks for your response.
No dispute. I used the term simply to point out that this was my opinion and that I was not speaking for anyone else.
This speech is a classic, but one that is often published in excerpts only as an indictment of the U. S.. Douglass was fierce in his support for abolition and 'pulled no punches'. But he also was a patriot who recognized that Americans and American institutions would find a way out of the tangled web of slavery.
I am pleased to hear in some of the posts here that Douglass' wisdom is being shared in schools. He is an American hero who needs to be heard and honored.
 

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For those of you who are wondering why Douglass gave this speech on July 5 and not July 4, it is because Douglass felt he could not celebrate July 4 due to the conditions of slaves.
In accepting the invitation, Douglass asked to move the speech to Monday, July 5, 1852. David Blight explains:
which had long been a practice among New York State African American communities. In the South, moreover, slave auctions had often been conducted on July 4, further sullying the date in African American memory. The Fourth fell on a Sunday, and for that reason also the Rochesterites moved it to Monday.​
<David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018), p. 229.>
The origin of the New York "practice" dated back to July 4, 1827, the effective date of New York's emancipation act. A meeting of Black leaders had been held May 27, 1852, in Albany "for the purpose of taking into consideration the expediency of celebrating the abolition of slavery in the State of New York." That meeting decided to celebrate on July 5 to avoid "the inevitable confrontation with large numbers of intoxicated whites who likely would prefer not to share Independence Day, blacks' joy in emancipation, or the right of way in the public thoroughfare."
<Mitch Kachun, Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915. (Amhears, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003 ), pp. 43-44.>
 

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Slave auctions had often been held in the south on July 4th, further sullying the date in African American memory...and The Fourth fell on Sunday, so that's also why Rochestrites moved (Douglass' speech) to Monday, July 5th. ...Black leaders ... decided avoid "inevitable confrontation with large numbers of intoxicated whites ... likely not to share Independence Day, blacks' joy in emancipation, or right of way in the public thoroughfare."
I didn't know July 4th fell on Sunday the year Mr. Douglass gave his speech. But that by itself would appear sufficient for delay until after a Sabbath, even with no coinciding national holiday fest. And the rest of what you recite by David Blight is also what I'd always been told was why Black folks opposed July 4. One more factual tidbit from US Black history: January 1 was no occasion for joyous celebration, as it meant fresh starts to harsh labors at some faraway plantation for slaves sold or hired by public auctions held on New Tears Day.
 

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On this day July 5 1852 in Rochester, New York, Frederick Douglass gave one of his most famous speeches.

He was asked to speak before a white audience about the meaning of the 4th of July to the black population.

In his scathing oratory Douglass rebuked the American society's attitude towards slavery.

"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."

Full speech:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927t.html
Also imagine to some the 4th July meant the day of the declaration of independence, as not all would be ignorant of events, not to mention not all negroes were slaves

Nor do I imagine Douglas spoke for all negroes anymore then Jefferson Davis or Abraham Lincoln spoke for all whites.

Douglas asking what does it mean to slaves.......doesnt really cover free blacks...........
 
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WJC

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I didn't know July 4th fell on Sunday the year Mr. Douglass gave his speech. But that by itself would appear sufficient for delay until after a Sabbath, even with no coinciding national holiday fest. And the rest of what you recite by David Blight is also what I'd always been told was why Black folks opposed July 4. One more factual tidbit from US Black history: January 1 was no occasion for joyous celebration, as it meant fresh starts to harsh labors at some faraway plantation for slaves sold or hired by public auctions held on New Tears Day.
Thanks for your response.
One question I still have: Blight says Douglass requested the change in date from July 4 to July 5, Kachun says he agreed to the change.
 

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One question I still have: Blight says Douglass requested the change from July 4 ... , Kachun says he agreed.
Don't see where your question is but Mr. Douglass most likely requested postponement for the same reason mentioned by your initial post reference to Black leaders in his day. And if he "agreed" on 3rd-party request, his motive was undoubtedly good will to maximize attendance at some later day.
 

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Don't see where your question is but Mr. Douglass most likely requested postponement for the same reason mentioned by your initial post reference to Black leaders in his day. And if he "agreed" on 3rd-party request, his motive was undoubtedly good will to maximize attendance at some later day.
Thanks for your response.
The sources differ as to who suggested the date change. One says Douglass asked for the change, another says the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society initiated the request. A small point, to be sure, but one which the sources can't seem to agree on.
 
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