As we prepare to commemorate the Independence Day weekend, let us take time beyond the traditional parades, fireworks and barbeques to reconsider the meaning and relevance of independence as it relates to ALL Americans.
With our country taking unprecedented action to eradicate systemic racial injustice in our society, we must recall the powerful words of Frederick Douglass during his historic speech on July 5, 1852 in Rochester, NY.
In addressing the Rochester Ladies Antislavery Society, Douglass, challenging the meaning of independence to Black Americans, asked: “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim.”
Douglass concluded his speech by demanding of our nation:
“For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and the crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”
Please view this magnificent reading of the speech, by actor James Earl Jones, and you’ll understand how Douglass’ words, almost 170 years later, resonate more than ever as we approach a day that should signify equality and freedom for each and every American.