Black Heritage Trail NH Defines the Readings of Frederick Douglass 1852 Speech

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The New Hampshire Black Heritage Trail Statewide Readings of Frederick Douglass’ What Slave Is Your Fourth of July? On Saturday July 3, are a recognition of the celebration of the holiday and its inherent paradox for many citizens.

Douglass, who was born a slave and became one of the most famous intellectuals of his time, delivered his speech on July 5, 1852 to an abolitionist group, after declining a request to speak at an event on July 4. His words remain powerful and deeply and sadly relevant 169 years later.

“Frederick Douglass gave this speech on July 5,” said Gina Bowker, office manager of BHTNH. “The speech turned into a condemnation of the attitude of American society towards slavery.”

BHTNH traditionally holds its event on July 3, before Independence Day, “to draw attention to the holidays, before the holidays, so when people celebrate, they have lived it and have it in mind.” , adds Bowker.

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Actor and Portsmouth resident Kevin Wade Mitchell reads excerpts from Frederick Douglass' historic July 4 speech on July 5, 1852, as Douglass in a previous reading.

“What slave is your 4th of July?” “

Douglass’ speech is due to be read at noon in 14 communities across the state, all in public places and free of charge.

The participating cities of Seacoast are Dover, Exeter, Newmarket, Portsmouth, Rochester and Rollinsford.

In Portsmouth, the reading takes place at Strawbery Banke; in Dover, at the Henry Law Park bandstand; in Exeter, at the town hall; in Newmarket, at Schanda Park; and at Rollinsford, home of Colonel Paul Wentworth. The Rochester site was still awaiting city approval on Wednesday, organizers said.

Residents of each community are invited to take part in the reading. The 11-page abridged speech is divided into sections, some as short as a few sentences, others of several paragraphs. People can register in advance to participate, or the day before the event, if certain segments are not allocated.

A section is reserved for a costumed artist, when available, who reads a section under the name of Fredrick Douglass. Kevin Wade Mitchell does the honors for the Portsmouth event, Strawbery Banke Museum.

People listen to a past reading of abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass's famous speech condemning the horrors of slavery at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth.

“The chosen sections are more meaningful if they are spoken in a black voice. Imagine a white person saying,” This July 4th is yours, not mine. You can rejoice, I must cry. “It’s more meaningful for visual reading,” said Executive Director JerriAnne Boggis. “As this is open and community reading, we don’t know exactly who is coming to read. We want to think about the representation of certain parts of speech. It is important that Frederick Douglass’ words ring genuine and that they ring genuine through a black voice. “

It is hoped that the readings of this deep and important speech will inspire people to think more deeply about independence and give them the opportunity to engage in deeper conversations leading to actions aimed at building more communities. inclusive and fair today.

“The sentiment that Frederick Douglass expressed in his indignation in 1852 is the same sentiment we express in outrage today. The past is not over. Unless we recognize the mistakes of the past, we are obligated to to repeat it, ”says Boggis. “Until we see systemic changes in our society around justice and equality, the July 4th speech will always have meaning because it forces us to see and dialogue about our situation.”

Information on blackheritagetrailnh.org, and on Facebook here.


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