A group of young descendants of Frederick Douglass gathered to read the abolitionist author’s famed speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

In a video released by NPR on Tuesday, the group of five descendants ages 12 to 20 took turns reading lines from the speech. It was originally given on July 5, 1852, to an abolitionist group.

“Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice embodied in that Declaration of Independence extended to us?” Douglass Washington Morris II, 20, read.


“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 sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery,” the group read.

The group also reflected on the speech amid the ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died earlier this year after a former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest. Protests calling for widespread police reform and other efforts will continue across the country over the weekend. 

"I think he’s mostly talking to the people who are already on his side but believe that they can still try to talk this out or that things are still justifiable," Zoë Douglass Skinner, 12, said. "I know a lot of people at the time were saying, and people now are still saying, that it’s not as bad as it could be."

"While the Fourth of July probably does not feel the same to me as it does to others, I wouldn’t say that it has no meaning because it is the time when America the country became free from another country, but I would say that it’s not the time in which I gained my freedom," Alexa Anne Watson, 19, shared. 

The video was inspired by Jennifer Crandall's documentary project "Whitman, Alabama," NPR noted. The project shows video of Alabama residents reading the words of Walt Whitman.