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Frederick Douglass 'Fourth Of July' Speech Read Aloud Across N.H.

Jason Moon / NHPR

Gatherings were held across New Hampshire Friday to read aloud Frederick Douglass' 1852 speech in which he famously asks, "what to the slave is the 4th of July?"

In Manchester’s Veterans Park, about a dozen people took turns reading sections of the speech at a somber ceremony.

Afterward, Brenda Bailey Lett said it’s important to remember the speech today because it shows the history of African Americans fighting against racial injustices.

“People have a tendency to say 'oh, I didn't know.' You need to know. From the beginning we have resisted injustice, we still resist it today.”

James McKim, president of the Manchester chapter of the NAACP, helped organize the event. He said the speech has particular significance this year.

“Frederick Douglass put it so well how African Americans see this nation,” said McKim, “and how much we’ve not been a part of that optimistic history.”

You can listen to the reading in its entirety below.

Similar readings were scheduled in Dover, Nashua, and Portsmouth.

New Hampshire PBS is also planning to broadcast a virtual group reading of the speech on July 4th at 7 p.m.

Jason Moon is a senior reporter and producer on the Document team. He has created longform narrative podcast series on topics ranging from unsolved murders, to presidential elections, to secret lists of police officers.
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