Frederick Douglass’ 4th of July Speech: “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

by H. Lewis Smith

In Frederick Douglass’ July 5, 1852, Fourth of July speech, he told the audience:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, 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 on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the every-day practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

Frederick Douglass’ speech personifies the indomitable spirit of the 18th and 19th century slaves. They refused to accept any beliefs and participate or rejoice in superficial (as it related to freed slaves), conciliatory occurrences that seemed to mock or minimize the sacrifice and struggle countless ones endured in the same nation that was built by their tireless toil but refused to allow them to enjoy the fruit of their labor.

This same unrelenting spirit of truth, remembrance, and striving toward one’s own superior entitlement was prevalent in freed descendants throughout the 1960s. Though physically barred during the 18th and 19th century, African Americans were less mentally enslaved then than many blacks of this 21st century. A vast amount of 21st century blacks have in many ways performed a whole 180-dgree turnaround; one of these more prevalent regressing moves is in their refusal to relinquish a dehumanizing, demented, degrading term laced with ignorance and immorality: the n-word.

One cannot visualize from any depth or corner of one’s essence or mind Frederick Douglass, father of America’s Civil Rights Movement, or any other victimized enslaved ancestor finding embracement of the n-word acceptable by their descendants. Such an embracement serves as an indictment that even though the slaves were freed in 1865, 145 years later many blacks are still mentally enslaved. That is a depressing and disgusting thought. The indoctrination of the black slaves’ forcible use of the n-word has proved to be a self-refueling and self-generating mind control mechanism.

Black leaders of the sanctioned slave era and leaders of the 1960s demonstrated much courage and intestinal fortitude in their efforts to unshackle the minds of their enslaved brothers and sisters.

Today, the presence of true black leaders with the same conviction and determination to overcome seems to be non-existent.

The system has found a way to keep these would-be leaders silent. The system architects have devised strategies that ensure some blacks’ obedience to the current status as they help to suppress and exploit their own kind, keeping them in an uncouth state of mind: White America no longer has to physically wield the whip to keep a race of people enslaved; rather, white America continues to keep the system in check by supporting black America’s degradation through compensating entertainers, writers, and the like, to continue perpetuation of the brainwashing process in a variety of ways.

In turn, these black ventriloquists continually work to mute the voices of the enlightened few by believing and loudly conveying to their followers this belief that no power exists in the n-word or other forms of cultural genocide.

Yes, blacks are the ones exhorting other blacks to remain in and accept their place of being n**gas. Sadly, many blacks do not realize that until ALL blacks are free, no black person will ever be able to experience the fullness and goodness of [true] freedom. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Ph.D., the Harvard professor arrested last year at his own home, discovered this truth first-hand. Dismally to report, his case is no anomaly.

White America had, for centuries, instilled into the minds of the slaves and a freed black America that the term “black” was something to be ashamed of, something evil and of no value. In the ‘60s, Black America took the notion to become free of such terms as Negro and Colored, and adopted the terms Black and African Americans. Black people of the ‘60s realized the mind game being played on them, and had the strength and fortitude to overcome this falsified negative mentality. They realized the beauty and strength of their blackness, and used it as a shield, weapon, and faith to march toward and re-claim their God-given liberties.

Current Black America has retrogressed and no longer exhibits the heart and soul of the ‘60s; instead, they prefer to surrender, meekly lie down, and yield to a term that keeps them mentally enslaved. In other words, the actions of today’s Black America are tantamount to a treasonable offense to the sacred, hallowed memories of their ancestry.

During the ‘60s the fight was against social injustice and Jim Crowism, and was gallantly fought. Even though today’s struggle continues to hinge heavily on a more subtle form of social injustice, Black America has the potential to unite and overcome these issues collectively. However, this unity can only be achieved once the group on whole awakens from the 400 years of mind manipulation and willfully cuts away all attachments and long-standing addictions to the past, including use of the n-word.

Just as nearly 400 years of slavery and Jim Crowism was no joke, African American’s use of the pejorative n-word is no laughing matter either. (A little more food for thought: Slavery and/or senseless beatings were a way to break the black man’s spirit just as referring to him as a “n**ga” was to do. To say that the use of the n-word no longer has power because blacks now use it, is like saying being physically enslaved and beat aimlessly has no power because blacks beat each other anyway. Those are both insane justifications, or excuses, no matter what angle, perspective, or light one considers either thought. A whippen is a whippen, no matter who delivers or receives it, and it hurts every time it happens! One may learn to numb her/himself to the blows, but guaranteed, every blow lands with some intensity of impact and leaves bruises, cuts, and scars—physical [impoverished, broken communities] and mental [referring to one another as “n*gga” and inferior mentalities] ones.)

A man isn’t truly free until the shackles of the human mind, body and spirit are broken. Until one is capable of taking control of their own mind and thoughts, he is still a slave. Black America is not in control as evidenced by its use of the n-word. Frederick Douglass once said: “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is…to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” The psychological and spiritual liberation of all Black people and realization of true independence will only be obtained through the embracing a reality of truth and enlightenment, not through the embracement of the n-word.  Is today your day of mental independence?

H. Lewis Smith is the founder and president of UVCC, the United Voices for a Common Cause, Inc.,, a writer for the New England Informer Online, and author of “Bury that Sucka: A Scandalous Love Affair with the N-Word”.  Follow H. Lewis Smith on

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