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Interview: Reading Frederick Douglass

For the last couple years, an event has been staged in Boston Common on the Fourth of July. It’s a communal reading of Frederick Douglass’s 1852 speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro.” This year, the Vermont Humanities Council has sponsored readings of the speech around Vermont, too.

The project, Reading Frederick Douglass, is organized by Paul Marcus, who also organized the Boston events. Marcus says the Douglass speech is a critical text in American history, but one that isn’t well-known by many Americans. He says reading it aloud in public adds depth to our celebrations of American independence.


The Vermont Humanities Council is holding public group readings of “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro” around Vermont:

July 8 — Front of Burlington City Hall, 6:00 pm. With the Vermont Peace and Justice Center. Vermont Peace and Justice Center, (802) 862-2345 or program@pjcvt.org

July 3 — Front of Montpelier City Hall, noon. Join in a communal reading of the speech. Presented by Community Change, Inc., Reading to End Racism, the Vermont Anti-Racism Action Team, Vermont Action for Peace, the Unitarian Church of Montpelier, and the Vermont Humanities Council. For more information, Max Matthews, 802.262.1355

July 1 — Roots Social Justice Center, Brattleboro, 6:30pm - 8:30 pm. Join the Brattleboro community in a reading of the speech with a discussion to follow about the relevance of the speech to our current reality. Snacks will be provided. For more information, Claire Halverson atclaireh@svcable.net or 802.254.6098, or at this link

July 1 — Catamount Center for the Arts, St. Johnsbury, 6:00 pm.  Join the St. Johnsbury community in a reading of the speech. Presented by the Vermont Humanities Council, Catamount Center for the Arts, NEK Allies for Racial Justice, Community Change, Inc., Lyndon State College FAIR, Cobleigh Library, and St. Johnsbury Athenaeum. For more information, Paul Marcus, 802.695.2968