Reading Frederick Douglass

What is it?

Mass Humanities coordinates annual public readings of Frederick Douglass’ famous Fourth of July address, The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro, 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 update our events page 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?

This page provides everything you need to organize a Reading Frederick Douglass event in your community.

Who funds it?

Mass Humanities will fund the stipend of a moderator (a teacher, scholar, or college teacher) for a discussion after any reading that is held in Massachusetts and is free, open, and publicized to the public. Please contact Rose Sackey-Milligan in advance. In addition, the first ten groups to submit photographs and a brief report after the event will be awarded $150.

This program is made possible with the generous funding of Eastern Bank and Wilmington Trust.

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.