Jul. 05, 2021
On this day in 1852, abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivered, to a Rochester, New York, audience, a scathing critique of the hypocrisy of celebrating “Independence Day” when millions of men, women and children were enslaved in the American south.
“Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us,” Douglass said, after wondering aloud why he was asked to speak about a day that didn’t include him. “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. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me.”
The end of the Civil War—and, Juneteenth, after that—saw the end of slavery in America. But the sentiments Douglass expressed resonate still with many Americans. So do the words of Susan B. Anthony in 1876, and Eleanor Rooseveltin …