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Cross-posted from Mike Malloy


Frederick Douglass, circa 1879
(image by National Archives)
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A friend writes:

The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass "spoke truth to Power" most unforgettably on July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York.

"There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future."

I could not agree more. And, here is an excerpt from the speech Frederick Douglass gave that day, a speech he titled "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro"...

"... I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us.

"The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.

"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.

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"This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.

"Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct.

"And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

"For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

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"How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."

"It is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin!"

"Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them.

"If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, ...may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!"

"To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world.

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www.mikemalloy.com

Mike Malloy is a former writer and producer for CNN (1984-87) and CNN-International (2000). His professional experience includes newspaper columnist and editor, writer, rock concert producer and actor. He is the only radio talk show host in America to have received the A.I.R (Achievement in Radio) Award in both (more...)
 

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