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'What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?' Frederick Douglass, Revisited

Two readings, 165 years apart, addressed to a nation at a precarious political moment. Why Frederick Douglass' famous 1852 anti-slavery speech is still read — and still resonates — in 2017.
The Frederick Douglass Statue in Emancipation Hall at the U.S. Capitol in 2013. On July 3, the National Archives hosted a reading of Douglass' essay about the Fourth of July. / Drew Angerer / Getty Images

"What to the slave is the Fourth of July?" posed Frederick Douglass to a gathering of 500-600 abolitionists in Rochester, N.Y., in 1852. Admission to the speech was 12 cents, and the crowd at the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society was enthusiastic, voting unanimously to endorse the speech at its end. This speech would be remembered as one of the most poignant addresses by Douglass, a former slave turned statesman. Douglass gave it on July 5, refusing to celebrate the Fourth of July until all slaves were emancipated.

On July 3, 165 years later, the same question was posed on a stage in the basement of the National Archives, in Washington, D.C. This time by an actor, dressed like Frederick

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