What is it?
Mass Humanities coordinates annual public readings of Frederick Douglass’ famous Fourth of July address, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” with communities and organizations around the state. A group of people take turns reading parts of the speech until they have read all of it. Where and how they do it and what they do before and after, are all up to the local event planners.
A wide spectrum of civic, cultural, and service organizations each commit to staging their own readings and collaborate with Mass Humanities to put on the event. These shared readings can be public or private. Any individual or organization can host a reading. In the past, events have drawn notable attendees like the Governor of Massachusetts, as well as many members of the general public.
What does this program do?
Douglass’ speech remains provocative centuries after its initial reading. These events open up discourse on race relations and citizenship, and raise awareness of the influential role slavery continues to play in our history and national discourse.
Bicentennial: This year we celebrate the birth of Frederick Douglass. He turns 200 on February 14, 2018. Throughout the year, let’s memorialize the life and legacy of this distinguished 19th century statements, civil rights advocate, and journalist, especially his fierce determination to address the contradictions of American society. Now in the 21st century, with Douglass’s commitment to equal justice unrealized and contemporary social concerns heightened, his words are still relevant, particularly as they relate to race, gender, and immigration.
Where do I find a Reading?
Our flagship event takes place in Boston each year, but other past events have been held at local community centers or historical societies, before the Independence Day fireworks, town greens, and elsewhere. We post readings on the Douglass events page for all events we are involved in or know about. And of course, you could create your own! Submit your event through our calendar!
How do I organize a Reading?
Who funds it?
Mass Humanities funds Reading Frederick Douglass Together events through our Discussion Grants program.
Reading Frederick Douglass programming was created in collaboration with Community Change, Inc. of Boston and the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School.