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Sunday, July 5, 2018 ~ Forging Shared Reality
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The arc of this masterful Frederick Douglass speech — delivered on this very day, July 5th in 1852 (especially if read in its entirety) — offers much fodder for thought on how a former slave turned public orator addressed the meaning that Independence Day held for him to a gathering of abolitionists (which included the then president of the United States)…
In other words, how Frederick Douglass opted to #MediateOnesLife. If you get a chance to read it, please notice how he marshaled both empathy and (scary) honesty on behalf of forging a more just shared-reality.
I hadn’t considered the Nonviolent Communication [Mediation] intonations, intermingling empathy for another’s vantage point with the rawer honesty of one’s own, rather differing point of view until this fourth of July, when my niece and I watched the musical turned 1776 (film)…
In the film (clip above), John Adams — addressing state differences as to the slavery clause — says: “If we give in on this issue, posterity will never forgive us…”
Recognizing the poignancy that this debate and other slavery references in the film held for my niece, who is African-American, the next day — July 5th — it occurred to me to introduce her to the Frederick Douglass speech, which we read together (an articulation some 76 years after the Declaration, one might say, from posterity’s hindsight).
In a Fourth of July holiday special, we begin with the words of Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass became a key leader of the abolitionist movement. On July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, he gave one of his most famous speeches, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.”
“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”
July 5, 1852
Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens:
He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me, quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country schoolhouses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.
The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th [of] July oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way… (continues)
Another Reading Of ‘What To A Slave Is The 4th Of July’ By Frederick Douglass: here
“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?“[a] is an untitled speech originally given by Frederick Douglass on July 5, 1852. He gave the speech, which is over 2,500 words long, to the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York, a city that was a center of abolitionist activities. The President of the United States and other important figures were also in attendance when Douglass gave the speech… (continues)
More commentary coming soon!