“What to the Slave Is the 4th of July?”: James Earl Jones Reads Frederick Douglass’s Historic Speech


Jul 4, 2022

In a July Fourth special broadcast, we share the words of Frederick Douglass as read by actor James Earl Jones. Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass became a key leader of the abolitionist movement. On July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, Douglass gave one of his most famous speeches, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” He was addressing the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society and questioned how enslaved people could possibly celebrate U.S. Independence Day when they were kept in bondage by that same country. James Earl Jones read the historic address during a performance of “Voices of a People’s History of the United States,” which was co-edited by Howard Zinn. The late great historian introduced the address.

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