Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

For updates on Stowe Center programs and events, sign up for our enews at http://harrietbeecherstowe.org/email.

Friday, July 4, 2014

"What to the Slave is the #4thofJuly?" - the meaning of #FrederickDouglass' words in 2014

On July 2, 1852, at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, self-emancipated slave and notable orator Frederick Douglass delivered "The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro" in Rochester, NY. In his now famous speech, Douglass reflected on the meaning of Independence Day for enslaved and free blacks who were in fact not equal and not privy to the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As he asked his audience: What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?

Douglass's words may be 162 years old and reflect an era when our government had not legally abolished the institution of slavery, but they ring true today. In a country that strives for equality, and despite Constitutional amendments and ever-changing legislation, modern day slavery and human trafficking persist and effect millions of people across American and our world. Although we may think we observe slavery, and many believe it has been "abolished," there are more people enslaved today than at any point in history.

So what do Douglass' words mean on Independence Day in 2014? What to the contemporary slave is the 4th of July? What work can we each do to ensure that on future Independence Days we have increased liberty and justice for all? We encourage you to share your thoughts below. 

You can read the full text of Douglass' speech HERE, and watch Morgan Freeman read powerful excerpts below. 


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.

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