Student Resources: History & Social Studies

Launchpad: Frederick Douglass's “What To the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

Created June 30, 2011

Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) was a former slave who became the greatest abolitionist orator of the antebellum period. During the Civil War he worked tirelessly for the emancipation of the four million enslaved African Americans. In the decades after the war, he was the most influential African American leader in the nation.

He delivered this speech on July 5, 1852. It is generally considered his greatest and one of the greatest speeches of the 19th century. Before you read the speech you can follow these links to learn more about Douglass’s life and the evolution of his thought in this period.