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What, To The Slave, Is The Fourth Of July?

The Lebanon County Branch of the NAACP held their third annual reading of Fredrick Douglas’ famous speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July,” which he made before Congress on July 5th, 1852.

Alisher Aminov

The Lebanon County Branch of the NAACP held their third annual reading of Frederick Douglass’s famous speech, “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?” which he made before the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, NY, on July 5, 1852.

With a crowd of approximately 100 people, The Lebanon County Branch 26AA of the NAACP had 44 community orators read sections of the Frederick Douglass Speech before an audience on Monday, July 4th, at Lebanon Valley College.

Michael Schroeder, Secretary of NAACP Branch 26AA and primary organizer of the event, prefaced the reading of the speech by giving the historical background that led Frederick Douglass to speak.

Schroeder said that during the era, the United States had recently passed the Compromise of 1850, in which the United States agreed to admit several states to the Union following the Mexican American War after a dispute about whether the states would be “free” or slave states.

Schroeder said that one of the provisions included in the compromise was a “beefed up” version of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 which allowed bands of kidnappers to seize not just “run-away slaves” but in practice any Black person anywhere in the Union and drag them down to the South in chains.

Schroeder also said that a mere five years after Frederick Douglass delivered his speech, the Supreme Court handed down the infamous Dred Scott V. Stanford ruling (March 6th, 1857).  In his majority opinion, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney said that a black man “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” The ruling affirmed that African Americans were not citizens of the United States and could not sue in federal court.

In his speech, Frederick Douglass disavowed the hypocrisy of the American Government for not following in accordance with the foundational promise of our Republic found in the Declaration of Independence – that all men are created equal. He challenged the egregious nature of the slave trade in the United States, and Douglass called on Congress and the President to act on the issue.

Before the oration began, the President of the Lebanon County Branch of the NAACP, Tony Fields, encouraged anyone not already a member of the Lebanon Chapter 26AA to join. He said that two years into the formation of the branch, there are currently roughly 160 Lebanon members; their work so far has been encouraging and will only continue to grow with time.

Today, the NAACP is dedicated to ensuring “a society in which ALL individuals have equal rights and there is no racial hatred or racial discrimination.”

For the full Frederick Douglass Speech please click here.

For more information regarding Lebanon Branch 26AA of the NAACP please click here.

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