What To Black Americans Is The Fourth of July?

In 1852, Frederick Douglass delivered one of his most riveting speeches What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” The speech addressed the glaringly hypocrisy of there being a holiday to celebrate America’s “independence” when we were still a slave-holding country. 

Unfortunately, 172 years later, many of his words still ring true for Black Americans and other people of color in the US. These past few years have proven truly bad ones for Black Americans and all people of color. Three and a half years ago, a racist ousted President incited a violent insurrection and coup attempt by his seditionist cult on our Capitol that, included the waving of a Confederate flag in its inner sanctum. That coup is ongoing and trump, the man who incited it, has not been prosecuted which makes me question AG Merrick Garland’s loyalties. In addition, the Supreme Court majority are very clearly white supremacist-leaning, partisan legal hacks, who have waged judicial civil war on Americans. Making the worst decisions since the 1857 Dred Scott decision by overturning Roe v Wade, affirmative action, and anti-discrimination laws against LGBTQ community, the SCOTUS are attempting to completely strip women, people of color, and the LGBQT community of all our rights including voting rights. Just this week the most corrupt Supreme Court in history started instituting the first two tenets of the fascist GOP manifesto, Project 2025, by hampering the ability of federal and state regulatory boards to regulate corporations which endangers every American. They also idiotically declared that the President is above the law in an effort to exonerate their criminally insane puppet master, trump from his dozens of crimes. So, this year, I am focused more than ever on the American Democracy and equality that the Founding Fathers talked but never walked.

Below in my yearly tradition, I am publishing Douglass’ original speech intertwined and updated with thoughts of my own. My updates to his speech are pink and italicized and my own thoughts follow.


The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the racism in American life and in the workplace, that I have endured, is considerable — and the difficulties to be overcome in getting from the latter to the former, are by no means slight. That I am here today is, to me, a matter of astonishment, as well as, of gratitude to the one on high.

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 248-years old.

Fellow-citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. The simple story of it is that, 248 years ago, the white people, who immigrated to this country, were British subjects. The style and title of your “sovereign people” (in which you now glory) was not then born. You were under the British Crown. Your ancestors esteemed the English Government as the home government; and England as the fatherland. This home government, you know, although a considerable distance from your home, did, in the exercise of its parental prerogatives, impose upon its colonial children, your white ancestors, such restraints, burdens and limitations, as, in its mature judgment, it deemed wise, right and proper.

But your ancestors presumed to differ from the English Monarchy in respect to the wisdom and the justice of some of those burdens and restraints. They went so far in their excitement as to pronounce the measures of government unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive, and not to be quietly submitted to. 

Oppression makes wise men and women mad. Your ancestors were wise and if they did not go mad, they became restive under this treatment. They felt themselves the victims of grievous wrongs, wholly incurable in their colonial capacity. The rose up and fought back. They gained their independence, which is what you say this day is all about.

My fellow and sister Americans, your ancestors made good. They succeeded; and even today, 248 years later, you still reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history — the very ring-bolt in the chain of your destiny, as White Americans. Pride and patriotism prompt you to celebrate the 4th of July to hold your ancestors’ accomplishments in perpetual remembrance. 

Fellow and Sister Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave, abet flawed, men. They were great men too — great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

Unlike today’s GOP congresspeople, they loved their country better than their own private interests; and though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He or she who will, intelligently, lay down his or her life for their country, is a person whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your ancestors staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.

They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settled” that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were “final;” not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these current degenerate times, especially in this current era.

How circumspect, exact and proportionate were all their movements! How unlike the politicians of today, especially the entire GOP!  Their statesmanship looked beyond the passing moment, and stretched away in strength into the distant future. They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defense. Mark them!


I, like Frederick Douglass, hold the Declaration of Independence in high esteem as “the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny.” and feel that the principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. I, also like Frederick, feel we should “stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.” My business, if I have any here today, is with the present, 248-years later. 2024, which is the accepted time with God and his cause is the ever-living now.

Thus, considering the ongoing racist oppression of Black people – in all walks of Life and every socio-economic level in America – I, like Frederick Douglass did 172 years ago, ask “What can the 4th of July mean to Black people, descendants of slaves, who are still oppressed and in many areas held in racial bondage, in this nation?” As long as there is a George Floyd, a Breonna Taylor, a Michael Stewart, an Amadou Diallo, an Elijah McClain, a Duante Wright, a Philando Castille, or thousands of other Black people senselessly murdered by the people sworn to protect us, how can we feel free? As long as we are discriminated against in our workplaces and thus unable to achieve our greatest potential at work, in service, and financially, how are we free? As long as we do not receive loans and lines of credit or VC capital for our businesses, how can we celebrate? As long as there are vast disparities in healthcare, housing, and every other marker of in American life, what does independence mean to us? As long, as Black-American women are dying at the highest rates of any women in the world during and right after childbirth, what can we celebrate? As long as we have a corrupt Supreme Court that has overturned affirmative action and declared the President a king immune to all prosecution for  criminal acts, what can we celebrate? As long as Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal languish in prison while trump, a convicted rapist and felon is running for President, what can we celebrate? And as long as thousands of formerly incarcerated Black people, who have already served their sentences, cannot vote but a white criminally insane, career criminal and con man, can run for President, how can ANY American celebrate this year?

As Frederick Douglass states, “We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time. Your ancestors have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. You live and must die, and you must do your work.” 

So-called liberal white Americans must stop thinking that a #BLM hashtag or a black square on your IGs or even marching is going to reverse and cure 400+ years of racist oppression. The real work involves much more. The real work is seeing the generational privilege that you have been afforded based solely on your skin color and what that means for you, especially in your workplaces and businesses. Since so many of you wanted an end to affirmative action and DEI programs, then you will also have to accept an end to legacy admissions to our colleges and universities, an end to nepotism in hiring, and an end to all of the racial discrimination and white privilege programs that you so readily promote and enjoy.

You must recognize that because of the racism, that has been in existence for our entire history, the vast majority of your Black American and other friends and coworkers of culture have a totally different daily life than you do. No matter what their socioeconomic status or background, your friends of color largely do not share the societal privileges that you do. Because only when Black Americans and all Americans have access to the same things that you do in every area of American life, will we have cause for real celebrations on the 4th of July or any other day. Our Founding Fathers, though very flawed men, gave us a roadmap. It is time we actually took the trip to Liberty,  Justice, and Equality for all.



That Girl At the Party

I am a proud blogger/influencer of 16 years and founder of the Henley Content Lab for content creators from underserved communities, who are 45 and over. I am also the founder of Chateau Canna and Cannappetit. I am also an aunt to 12 and human to Bodhi and Yoko Rey.