“Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too, great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory....”

So began Frederick Douglass’ speech The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro. After this congratulatory beginning Mr. Douglass went on in a more inflammatory tone looking at the celebration of freedom through the eyes of those who were anything but free.

This July 4 at 6 p.m. at the small bridge in Oak Bluffs the entirety of Mr. Douglass’s speech will be read by a roundtable of readers each taking a part. Afterwards, historian Dr. Robert Hayden will give a short talk about the importance of the speech in terms of the times in which it was given. There will also be a potluck supper and informal discussion.

The event is sponsored by the Members of Renaissance, a retreat for writers and artists located in East Chop and, more recently, Harlem.

In case of rain, call 917-747-0367.