Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Thursday, July 03, 2008

    Everyone enjoy your 4th of July. Below is a repost from a year ago -- Frederick Douglas gave an amazing speech on July 5th, 1852. A speech that is often forgotten.

    156 years ago today, July 5th, 1852, the iconic Frederick Douglass gave a speech in his hometown of Rochester, New York titled "What To The American Slave Is Your 4th Of July?"

    Little background— Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was a white woman, released Uncle Tom's Cabin in March of 1852. Well, the book detailed the bloody conditions of slavery and many white folks were in an unruly shock. That good white-guilt was flooding the minds of many Americans and Abraham Lincoln once credited the book as starting the Civil War.

    By July of 1852 a 34 year-old Frederick Douglass, also a former slave, had just about enough of the foolishness of the 4th of July. Can you imagine rich whites rejoicing over patriotism and throwing firecrackers in the air knowing that over 80% of black Americans are still slaves? Douglass decided to deliver in an unapologetic blast of truth, venom and fact. Here was the first punch:

    “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?” He continues, “I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”

    This nearly brings a tear to my left-eye. Especially considering the legendary quote from the Virginia Gazette in July 1777, “Thus may the 4th of July, that glorious and ever memorable day, be celebrated through America, by the sons of freedom, from age to age till time shall be no more. Amen and Amen.” What type of hypocritical, socially irresponsible hogwash is that? Obviously I could never feel the rage that Frederick Douglass felt, who was only a freeman for fourteen years when he made the speech.

    Here is another excerpt:

    “I do not hesitate to declare with all my soul that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.”

    Can you imagine the risk Douglass took as a former slave to make this speech for every white person in America to read? Emancipation was still 13 years away and the Civil War wasn’t even close to being started. Many argue if it wasn’t for this speech Emancipation could’ve happened thirty years later versus thirteen.



    This is not to say you shouldn’t eat on the 4th of July or spend time with friends and family, but realize the history of this American holiday, which is so un-American it rots like a bloated corpse after Hurricane Katrina. Frederick Douglass changed the world. I will leave you with this:

    “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 denunciation 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 of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States at this very hour.”

    To read the full speech click here.

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    Posted by Clay :: 12:18 PM :: 3 comments

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