Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Robert Visits An American Grave: Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave, a great abolitionist orator, and generally a great American. Not too long ago, I read one of his autobiographies. Of his speeches, I am most likely to recognize bits from his 1952 observations on independence day. (Eldridge Cleaver quotes it in Soul on Ice.) This part is fierce:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Frederick Douglass is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY. This is a family plot, with his widow at his left.

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