NPR Re-Airs Powerful Speech Reading from Douglass’ Descendants

On National Public Radio, they have an audience goal called a driveway moment. If you were listening to All Things Considered this weekend, you may have had that moment on repeat. You may have heard the echoes of Frederick Douglass.

One year ago on NPR…

NPR’s flagship newsmagazine program ran a powerful speech this weekend ahead of the Fourth of July. The speech was from Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July.” 

His greatest grandchildren, of all ages, read this speech in July of 2020, as the nation struggled with protests and police brutality. This year, the network’s Elsa Chang brought the readings back.

And as the nation grapples with those same problems, they hit so much harder.

But so much more harm continues.

Protesters wake up Mitch McConnell with protest at his house
Protesters wake up Mitch McConnell with protest at his house

Since the day All Things Considered aired these speeches, we have had a number of challenges. Not the least of which was a Capitol assault highlighting distrust in our nation’s political foundations.

We have since turned a corner on a pandemic that continues to disproportionately affect BIPOC communities. And none of this even begins to account for the challenges we are seeing to voting rights for minority communities in America.

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So we look with Chang to this critical moment, before the nation’s independence day, and following the nation’s first celebration of black independence. Instead, after Juneteenth, we ask the hard question of what this national holiday should mean to those inherently harmed by the nation’s past.

I leave you with the penultimate measure of this gripping piece, read by Douglass’s descendants

I DOUGLASS SKINNER: What to the American slave is your Fourth 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.