This is Mayor Lydia Lavelle.
America celebrates the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. We have parades, fireworks, and we wear our red, white, and blue.
In the past, this day was also commemorated with speeches. One of these was given by the great orator, Frederick Douglass, in 1852 in Rochester, New York. This speech has come to be known as “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro.”
In the speech, Douglass, an African-American, asks, “are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?”
The speech was well-written, well delivered, and presented a compelling argument against slavery, which did not end until over a decade later.
Listening to this speech today reminds us that throughout most of our country’s history, Independence Day had a different meaning for some Americans. Further, many believe that we have achieved racial equality. I would submit that this is decidedly not so.
July 2nd of this year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Town of Carrboro will be sponsoring a community reading of Douglass’ famous speech in the Town Hall boardroom this Friday, July 4th at noon. The reading, in which a number of community members will participate, should take about half an hour to complete.
I urge all citizens to consider attending this event to reflect on an aspect of this day that now largely goes unspoken. I hope this event will remind us of our stated “self-evident” truth: that all of us are created equal.