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.