(Durham, NH, July 1, 2020) - On July 5, 1852, former slave and the abolitionist movement leader, Frederick Douglass delivered one of his most famous speeches – “What to the slave is your Fourth of July?” While addressing a group of women who invited him to speak in celebration of America's independence, Douglass delivered a stirring speech that is as meaningful today as it was almost 170 years ago in Rochester, New York.
For the past several years, the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire has collaborated with communities around the Granite State to read Douglass’ historic protest speech and to reflect on its meaning. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and physical distancing requirements forced the BHTNH to amend its delivery of this community reading – that's where the idea for this program was born.
According to JerriAnne Boggis, Executive Director of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, “With the protests that have followed the death of George Floyd, we can see that the wish of Frederick Douglass, that he made in this particular speech, that ‘the conscience of the nation must be roused,’ has come to pass. And we are heartened by this. Douglass bore witness to the paradox of a country simultaneously celebrating freedom while keeping people in chains. By presenting his speech through the voices of community leaders across our state, we bear witness to what is happening today. And, while reading Frederick Douglass’ work is a powerful experience for many, it is only one piece of the long-overdue conversations that our communities need to have. We hope that these readings will be a starting point for these difficult dialogues and that they will provide an opportunity for us to engage in deeper conversations that will lead to actions to help build more inclusive and just communities today. It is in this spirit we ask you to watch and listen to this virtual reading.”
The virtual reading required virtual production techniques that New Hampshire PBS put together as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The staff has been working remotely for months and the program's producers used a virtual control room to connect with dozens of readers across the state. "This is an important project for NHPBS and the Granite State," says President and CEO Peter Frid. "This collaboration is at the heart of what we do. And we're proud to be a part of this important project."
Reading Frederick Douglass airs Saturday, July 4th at 7pm and 10pm on NHPBS and Sunday, July 5th at 8:30pm on NHPBS Explore. The virtual production was produced by NHPBS in partnership with the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire. To watch online, visit nhpbs.org/frederickdouglass. For more information on the readings, visit http://blackheritagetrailnh.org/frederick-douglass-statewide-readings/
About the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire
The mission of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire is to promote awareness and appreciation of African American history and life in order to build more inclusive communities today. With recent events, this mission is more important now than ever. Please call us at 603-570-8469 for more information. Please visit www.BlackHeritageTrailNH.org
A stirring speech that is as meaningful today as it was on that day.