Community reading Saturday of Frederick Douglass' 4th of July speech

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Jun. 23—Cape Ann will be among the communities taking part in a statewide initiative to hold a public reading of Frederick Douglass' 1852 speech "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"

This event takes place on Saturday, June 26, at 10 a.m. at the new Cape Ann Museum Green at 13 Poplar St. in Gloucester.

The gathering is hosted by the Cape Ann Museum in partnership with the Cape Ann Slavery and Abolition Trust, a collaboration of the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Rockport.

"Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838, found freedom in New Bedford, and lived for many years in Massachusetts. He delivered the Fourth of July speech on July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, to the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society," according to a press release from Mass Humanities, which organized the statewide event. "The tradition of shared readings of the speech began in African American communities and continues to grow nationally."

This program was designed to bring diverse people together to read this historical work out loud and then reflect on the work and its themes.

Copies of the speech will be distributed to those in attendance and the public will be called upon to take turns reading passages from the work.

"Frederick Douglass had strong ties to the North Shore, living with his family in Lynn from 1841 to 1847 and traveling to Cape Ann on at least one occasion to speak about the abolitionist movement. And yet, Douglass' connection to this area is not widely known, nor is the extent to which the abolitionist movement was active in this region during the 19th century. Reading Douglass' speech provides the opportunity to share this hidden history in an intentional and inclusive manner," according to a press release about the Gloucester event.

After the reading, participants will be invited to discuss the significance of the oration. Members of the museum staff and the Cape Ann Slavery and Abolition Trust will facilitate the discussion with Nicole McClain, president of North Shore Juneteenth Association Inc. in Lynn.

This is a free public event, and participants are asked to register through Eventbrite. The reading will be held outdoors at the Cape Ann Museum Green and livestreamed on Facebook and Vimeo. For more information, visit

This year's events also take place in Amherst, Boston, Dorchester, East Falmouth, Jamaica Plain, Marion, Milton, Newburyport, Newton, New Bedford, Northampton, Norwood, Oak Bluffs, Plainfield, Sharon, Somerville, Swampscott and Worcester.

The "Reading Frederick Douglass Together" program is made possible through funding from the Mass. Cultural Council.

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