Today is a national holiday commemorating July 4th when American colonies declared their independence from England in 1776. While many in the US hang flags, attend parades and watch fireworks, Independence Day is not a cause of celebration for everyone.
For Native Americans it is a bitter reminder of colonialism, which brought disease, genocide and the destruction of their culture and way of life.
For African Americans Independence Day did not extend to them. While white colonists were declaring their freedom from the crown, that liberation was not shared with millions of Africans who were captured, beaten, separated from their families and forced into slavery thousands of miles from home.
Today we will go back more than 150 years to hear one of the most powerful voices of the abolition movement–Frederick Douglas.
Born a slave in Maryland in 1818, Douglas escaped from slavery in the 1830s and became a leader in the growing abolition campaign through lectures and his anti-slavery newspaper The Northstar. He would become a major civil right leader in the Unites States.
Douglas gave his Independence Day oration in 1852.
Today we’ll hear excerpts of that speech as part of a dramatic reading of Howard Zinn’s classic work: A People’s History of the United States.
The great historian gathered with actors and writers several months ago at the 92nd Street Y in New York.
The cast included Alfre Woodard, Danny Glover, Marisa Tomei, Kurt Vonnegut, James Earl Jones and others.
- Howard Zinn, author, A People’s History of the United States.
- James Earl Jones, actor.
- Harris Yulin, actor.
- Andre Gregory, actor.
- Jeff Zinn, Howard Zinn’s son.
- Marisa Tomei, actress.
- Danny Glover, actor.
- Kurt Vonnegut, author.
- Alfre Woodard, actress.
- Alice Walker, author, novelist and essayist.