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Reading Frederick Douglass

  • First Religous Society 26 Pleasant Street Newburyport, MA 01950 (map)

The First Religious Society Unitarian Universalist and the Museum of Old Newbury will host a community reading of Frederick Douglass's impassioned 1852 speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro” on Sunday, July 1 at 11:00 am. 26 Pleasant Street, Newburyport. The shared reading will be followed by discussion and light refreshments. 

Reading Frederick Douglass is an event held in various communities along the eastern seaboard to commemorate the July 5, 1852 oration made by Douglass at the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, New York, a city that was a center of abolitionist activities. This emotionally powerful and thought-provoking speech is as relevant today as it was in Douglass’s own lifetime. It is especially meaningful in 2018 as it is the bicentennial of Douglass’s birth.

Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery in September 1838. He made his way to New York City and eventually New Bedford where he was a laborer. In New Bedford, he became acquainted with the Liberator, an anti-slavery newspaper edited by William Lloyd Garrison. Douglass began attending anti-slavery meetings and spoke at a convention held on Nantucket in 1841. After the convention, John A. Collins, a general agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, urged Douglass to become a lecturer for his organization. It was with Collins that Douglass arrived in Newburyport in September 1841 – just three years after his miraculous escape from slavery. He spoke at the Prospect Street Church on the corner of Fair and Prospect Streets and stayed at the home of abolitionist Richard Plumer on Federal Street.

For the July 1 event, readers from the community will orate the Douglass speech. If you are interested in being a reader, please contact Kristen Fehlhaber at the First Religious Society. This event is public and open to all. We hope that you will join us to commemorate this important historical event.