As Independence Day techniques, Northampton-based mostly Mass Humanities is sponsoring an unprecedented 20 readings of Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” speech from 1852.
Readings of the speech — which interrogates the thought of independence in a country plagued by racial injustice — kicked off on Juneteenth this yr. Nonprofit Mass Humanities began sponsoring these readings in 2009 and offers grants of up to $2,000 for affiliated functions.
“Every yr we say that the phrases of Douglass are resonant since of the ongoing operate we need to have to do close to racial justice,” govt director Brian Boyles explained in an interview.
The quantity of events has doubled from 2019, the very last time in-individual readings have been held, Boyles reported. The 2021 lineup will last by way of July 18, with 5 situations on July 4 (set almost everywhere from Amherst to Somerville) and just one on July 5 (in East Falmouth), the identical day Douglass, who lived in Massachusetts for several many years, gave his deal with in Rochester, N.Y. For a complete agenda of Mass Humanities-sponsored readings, visit masshumanities.org.
The flagship reading through will be held July 2 at noon on Boston Frequent — around the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial, one particular of the to start with Black regiments in the Civil War. Co-sponsoring this party are the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law Faculty, the Museum of African American History, and Local community Alter Inc., a Boston group that advocates for anti-racist education and motion.
Grants from Mass Humanities deal with occasion bills these types of as h2o and PA devices, as perfectly as fees for scholars to guidebook write-up-reading through discussions. “We truly believe it’s fantastic to have a person who has knowledge to lead a discussion, and also is aware of this material and Douglass’s life and the relevance that it has,” Boyles reported.
Boyles pointed to existing pushes for restrictive voting laws and banning lessons on significant race concept in general public faculties as modern-day reflections on the worth of Douglass’s text.
“The way that opponents of voting rights are seeking to remove slavery from historical past publications and general public memory is all the additional cause why we feel it’s pretty courageous for Massachusetts communities to choose the action they took this calendar year, and embrace this reckoning, facial area up to a legacy of slavery,” he said.
UPDATE (June 30, 2021): A former variation of this posting provided an incorrect day for the last reading. The last looking at will acquire put on June 18.
Dana Gerber can be arrived at at [email protected]