Reading Frederick Douglass Together

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.

Who participates?

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.

Where do I find a Reading?

Amherst, 2014

Amherst, 2014

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 our calendar with all the Douglass events we are involved in or know about. And of course, you could create your own!

How do I organize a Reading?

To organize a Reading Frederick Douglass Together event, apply for a Civil Rights Discussion grant. For more information on the program, please contact Rose Sackey-Milligan at Mass Humanities: (413) 584-8440 x101.

Who funds it?

Mass Humanities funds Reading Frederick Douglass events (along with other Civil Rights Discussion events) throughout Massachusetts through our Civil Rights Discussion grant.

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.