The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire (BHTNH and Strawbery Banke Museum will again hold a public reading of one of the 19th century’s most famous speeches, “What to the Slaves is the Fourth of July?”, given by Frederick Douglass in 1852. The reading will take place at 12PM on July 3rd, 2018, at the Strawbery Banke Museum Visitor’s Center in Portsmouth.
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.
“Reading Frederick Douglass,” says Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail Founder Valerie Cunningham, “causes us to think in new ways about our nation’s history. It’s a great opportunity to open-up a dialogue about race and citizenship, and raises awareness of the role slavery continue to play in our history and national discourse today.”
JerriAnne Boggis, Executive Director of the BHTNH commented on the significance of the event. “This year marks the 200th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’s birth. We are honored to be celebrating this great American orator with this community reading of one of his most fiery speeches … a speech that, given the happening in our country today, rings just as true today as it did in 1865.”
People of all ages and different walks of life are asked to gather at noon to take turns reading parts of the speech until the entire speech has been read. Libraries, churches, historical societies, community service groups, social justice organizations, and schools are encouraged to listen and participate in the reading. 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 citizens.
This free public event is sponsored by the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire and Strawbery Banke Museum.
About the Black Heritage Trail of NH
The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire works to open hearts and minds for a deeper understanding of who we are as a collective and to recognize that we share a uniquely American heritage. Building on the success of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail that started more than two decades ago, the new statewide Black Heritage Trail connects the stories of New Hampshire’s African heritage by documenting and marking visible many of the historic sites that testify to this rich history.
Guided tours and public programs, along with educational materials and teacher workshops, will continue to be developed by the Black Heritage Trail to promote awareness of African-American culture and to honor all the people of African descent whose names may not have been included in previous town histories. The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire provides a variety of learning experiences for adults and children. Offerings include school programs, guided tours, traveling programs, lectures, and workshops. The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire is an independent, nonprofit organization. The organization is a registered 501c 3 nonprofit; Taxpayer Identification Number 81-3921917.