Abolitionist's July 4 Speech: A Reminder Of Suffering

In 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a thought-provoking Fourth of July speech, which was re-enacted Thursday night in Oakland, Calif. Co-host Renee Montagne has the story.


Now a moment to remember a Fourth of July event from many years ago, not 1776 but 1852.

Unidentified Man: Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wails of millions.

MONTAGNE: Those are the words of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Words he spoke on Independence Day in 1852, reminding Americans that while they celebrated their freedom, others were enslaved.

Unidentified Man: To forget them and to chime in with the popular theme would be treason most scandalous and shocking.

MONTAGNE: The words of abolitionist Frederick Douglass on an Independence Day. The actors we heard were James Brook and Michael Lang, reading at the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music here in California.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.