On August 1, 1880 Frederick Douglass gave a speech in Elmira, New York denouncing the rollback of Reconstruction.  Hear excerpts of this speech delivered by Professor James Spruill, of the School of Theater in the College of Fine Arts, at Boston University. 

Listen to selections of Douglass' speech, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro," delivered by Professor James Spruill, who teaches at the School of Theater in the College of Fine Arts , Boston University. (Please note: this is a large file and downloads slowly.)

Frederick Douglass

In 1852, Frederick Douglass was invited to give a Fourth of July speech in Rochester , New York .  Douglass used the occasion to remind his audience that "the blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common.  The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me....This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.  You may rejoice, I must mourn."

Born into slavery in Maryland in 1818 as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, Frederick Douglass became one of the most inspiring leaders of the abolitionist movement.  The son of an enslaved mother and an unknown white father, Douglass escaped from slavery in Baltimore, and settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts where he made a living through various trades he had learned during his years in slavery.   He became very well read, and a popular speaker with the American Anti-Slavery Society.  After he published his autobiography in 1845, he toured England, Ireland and the United States giving speeches.  Two years later, he started his antislavery paper called the North Star.  He split with William Lloyd Garrison over whether the US Constitution should be abolished (Garrison’s position) or could be “wielded in behalf of emancipation,” as Douglass believed.   In his later years, he served as advisor to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.  He also fought for the rights of women.

>> Listen to his speech denouncing the rollback of Reconstruction

>> Listen to his speech entitled, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro"

>> Learn more: http://www.frederickdouglass.org/douglass_bio.html

Copyright 2006, ACLU of Massachusetts