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The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro by Frederick Douglass — A speech given at Rochester, New York, July 5, 1852

David Remick’s essay, “AmericanDiginity on the Fourth of July” in The New Yorker led me to search, read and post Frederick Dogulass’ speech in its entirety. One Hundred Sixty-Five Years after Douglass gave his speech Raoul Peck made the documentary I Am Not Your Negro based on James Baldwin’s unfinished work. Unfinished is an understatement.

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 school houses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.

The papers and placards say that I am to deliver a Fourth of July Oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for me. It is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their familiar faces, nor the perfect gage I think I have of Corinthian Hall seems to free me from embarrassment.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable-and the difficulties to [b]e overcome in getting from the latter to the former are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence I will proceed to lay them before you. Read more

Classification is not confirmation

Petrie dishes of capitalist experimentation . . .

It was an odd dream although I was not naked what I wore was neither me nor appropriate to the situation.

(will I be ready if and when recognition comes)
I walk into a meeting of high-powered people

(socially awkward outsider)

All the attention is on me when the representative “I” goes into this fabulously impressive articulate cultural analysis. Of course, I cannot remember when I wake except for something about our minds as Petri dishes for some social, political, corporate experimental bacteria. I write the one phase I can eek out on an orange post-it: Classification is not confirmation.

It took what forty-fifty years for the fringe to come to complete and total power? This brings me to Timothy Snyder’s resistance pamphlet, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. History repeats itself, but in the end, every dictator lives on life-support. The French Revolution—The Russian Revolution and our American revolution have proven the people bend until they break. In this instance, I hope history repeats itself while the imperiled Earth remains habitable. Read more

THOUGHTS ON THE BUDDING DICTATOR

I forget to write and barely read the New York Times since becoming distracted by Trumpmania. I watch what appears to be history rolling in from a black horizon. My eyes glued to CNN and MSNBC as to a telescope turning my focus toward Fox News to avoid the shoals. The puddle of time since Drumpf became president is like crossing the Pacific Ocean through a confluence of three massive storms colliding.

Who is deceiving whom? Is the media running out the story for ratings? Is Donald Drumpf as ignorant and off the wall as he appears? Are his tweets media candy or a distraction from his devious attempts at authoritarian rule? He and the Republican Congress are working in the cloak of chaos to dismantle personal liberty, reverse advances in human and environmental reform. America was greater under a cloud of pollution and contaminated waterways. No? NO!

And where are the patriotic Republicans who have historically voted their conscience to impeach and impede Democratic presidents? Read more