Douglass, Frederick

Meaning of the 4th of July to

Frederick Douglass of July 4th to the Enslaved

Frederick Douglass on the Meaning of the 4th of July to
the Enslaved

In 1852, Frederick Douglass was invited to speak at an Independence Day
rally wherein he said:

"Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to
speak here today? What have I, or those I represent , to do with your national
independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural
justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And I,
therefore called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and
to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings
resulting from your independence to us? …

"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 sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your
denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and
equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and
thanksgivings, 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.

"Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the
monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search
out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of
the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that for
revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without rival."

No Progress Without Struggle!

No Progress Without Struggle! -

No Progress Without Struggle!

by Frederick Douglass

Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reforms.

The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions,
yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The
conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being
putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing.

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor
freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing
up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the
ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be
both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing
without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people
will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong
which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted
with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed
by the endurance of those whom they oppress.


Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must pay for all they
get. If we ever get free from all the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us,
we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by
sacrifice, and, if needs be, by our lives, and the lives of others.


From an address on West India Emancipation, August 4, 1857.