A program in St. Paul Monday, July 7, will discuss Frederick Douglass’ renowned 1852 speech, “What Does the Fourth of July Mean to the Negro?”
The free program will feature former Macalester professor and long-time community scholar-activist Mahmoud El-Kati. It will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. July 7 at the new East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier St., St. Paul.
The East Side Freedom Library seeks to provide opportunities for community members from diverse backgrounds to engage U.S. history and interact in a setting of community learning.
In 1852, the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, New York, sponsored the speech by Douglass, with came at a time when the abolitionist movement was in the midst of internal turmoil. Activists were arguing passionately about how to engage the struggle to keep Kansas free, how to respond to the Fugitive Slave Act, and what these and related developments suggested about the possibilities for democracy and freedom within the United States.
Only in his mid-30s, Douglass was already well known as a former slave who had traveled to Europe and authored a widely-read autobiography.
His speech energized the audience, which interrupted him many times with cheers and applause, and was published as a pamphlet and widely circulated in the ensuing years as the abolitionist movement grew in organization and militancy. The 1852 speech has continued to resonate with audiences and readers over the decades.