Event Commemorates Powerful Speech Given by Frederick Douglass

Participants take turns reading parts of the speech

By Lynn Clark

A public reading of one of the 19th century’s most famous speeches will take place at noon on Friday, July 1, at the Warner Town Hall, 5 East Main Street in Warner.

“What to the Slaves is the Fourth of July?” asked Frederick Douglass in 1852.

Frederick Douglass was known as a great orator and abolitionist. The speech he gave on the Fourth of July, 1852, is reenacted annually around the nation.

Douglass, one of our nation’s greatest orators and abolitionists, was asked to speak at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  In his provocative speech, Douglass said, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” And he asked, “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?”

Douglass’s speech remains emotionally powerful and thought-provoking more than a century and a half after he gave it.

People of all ages and different walks of life have been asked to gather at noon at the Warner Town Hall to take turns reading parts of the speech until the entire speech has been read.  There is a section that we will all read together.  Please come to listen if you would rather not read.

Community leaders around the country participate in these readings – people such as town officials, teachers and activists, the police and fire chiefs, and heads of key organizations come together with ordinary neighborhood folk.

Reading Frederick Douglass causes us to think in new ways about our nation’s history, affords opportunities to open discourse about race relations and citizenship, and raises awareness of the role slavery and race continue to play in our history and national discourse.

Libraries, churches, historical societies, community service groups, social justice organizations, and schools are encouraged to participate in the reading.

This free public event is a program of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire in collaboration with the Warner Historical Society, churches, community organizations, and other historical societies around the state.

If you would like to read a portion of Douglass’ speech, please email the Warner Historical Society office at info@nullwarnerhistorical.org.