A Legacies link special for Independence Day—Frederick Douglass: influencer of the ages

For many African Americans, Independence Day in the United States is an occasion for layered emotions and contentious discussions. Nothing has captured this better than Frederick Douglass’s immortal speech from July 5, 1852: “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

Today we bring you a few chosen links about Douglass and that speech. As always, we encourage you to share this post with friends, students, colleagues, etc. A link does not imply agreement or endorsement by the Council of Independent Colleges.

Frederick Douglass in 1880 as photographed by Matthew Brady. source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” (transcript and original publication from the Frederick Douglass Project at the University of Rochester): LINK. “The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”

Christy DeSmith, “Frederick Douglass as 19th-century influencer,” The Harvard Gazette (June 13, 2023): LINK. A new exhibition curated by Sarah Elizabeth Lewis and Henry Louis Gates for the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, explores Douglass’s relationship to photography and also features a selection of pictures of other Black Americans taken before 1865.

Brenda C. Siler, “Exhibit Shows Frederick Douglass’ Life, Work, Love for Photography,” The Washington Informer (June 28, 2023): LINK. “’One Life: Frederick Douglass,’ a new exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, explores the life and legacy of one of the 19th century’s most influential global writers, speakers, and intellectuals. The exhibition, which is rooted in Douglass’ love of photography, showcases more than 35 objects.” On view until April 21, 2024.

Oliver White, “In Search of Frederick Douglass,” Chesapeake Bay Magazine (June 23, 2023): LINK. The author takes a guided kayak tour of Tuckahoe Creek, the place where Frederick Douglass was born into slavery and where he spent the first years of his youth in the care of his grandmother.

Ronald Sundstrom, “Frederick Douglass,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (rev. 2023): LINK. A philosopher looks at the political and social thought of Douglass and places it in the context of ongoing debates about freedom, justice, and democracy.