NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Often, during this time of year, it can be forgotten that America has a relationship with slavery. Frederick Douglass spoke in front of a group of people one-hundred seventy years ago, changing such a relationship.

Mass Humanities, a group out of Northampton that focuses on “supporting a thriving humanities ecosystem in Massachusetts,” will support public readings of the address in local locations over the next several days.

In 1838, Frederick Douglas escaped from slavery and lived in Massachusetts. On July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, he delivered the Fourth of July Speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

Slavery in the United States may be an idea of the past but with the Fourth of July on the horizon, Frederick Douglass comes to mind to many but not enough. His influential address changed the Commonwealth. To quote Douglass, “We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the future.”

“First delivered in 1852, Frederick Douglass’s ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July’ is timeless,” said Brian Boyles, Executive Director of Mass Humanities. “This year, the legislatures of 36 states have introduced or passed bills that would outlaw honest discourse about the history and impact of racism in America—measures that could ban from schools and libraries the reading of Douglass’s speech and the words and the works of other African American authors, poets, playwrights, and thought leaders. We need to hear and heed Douglass’s words now more than ever.”

Providing a time and a place for these readings opens the door for “enough.” Respect and responsibility for our connection to the past and our future are relevant. It has already begun that 23 organizations will be hosting their own “Reading Frederick Douglass Together” events in Massachusetts this summer.

The National Endowment of the Humanities’ (NEH) A More Perfect Union is making this community participation possible.

The non-profits hosting “Reading Frederick Douglass Together” events include:

July 3 

July 4 

July 5

Mass Humanities, a non-profit based in Northampton, conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life throughout Massachusetts. Since its founding in 1974, the organization has provided millions of dollars in support of thousands of humanities projects across the Commonwealth. Established as the state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Mass Humanities is an independent programming and grant-making organization that receives support from the NEH and the Massachusetts Cultural Council as well as private sources.