Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy July 4th From Fred G. Sanford and Frederick Douglass

We respectable negroes have created many a fiction about our family origins and The War for Independence. Funny, we black folk rush to claim Crispus Attuks. But, we ignore the inconvenient fact that more Black Americans fought for the British than the Colonials. Alas, I guess a nation needs a unifying myth of who am I to rock the apple cart?

Before you go out and indulge in cheap beer, Boon's Farm liquor, corn on the cob, and baby back ribs, please reflect on the Black Patriots (the real ones, not Glenn Beck's twisted version of that great truth). For example, take a few moments to honor such men as Frederick Douglass who after beating up white overseers (my favorite bedtime story as a young negro in training) and tricking poor white trash children into teaching him the alphabet, found the time to write such great speeches as What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

My favorite passage:

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 cruelly 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; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, 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 these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.


Eat drink and be merry on this 4th of July. And by all means, if you are playing with fireworks don't lose an eye!

1 comment:

gordon gartrelle said...

Thanks for posting this. This is one of the greatest speeches in American history, and despite its scathing condemnation of American hypocrisy, it's the most patriotic thing I've ever read. I taught this speech every chance I got.

My favorite part:

In glaring violation of justice, in shameless disregard of the forms of administering law, in cunning arrangement to entrap the defenseless, and in diabolical intent, this Fugitive Slave Law stands alone in the annals of tyrannical legislation. I doubt if there be another nation on the globe, having the brass and the baseness to put such a law on the statute-book. If any man in this assembly thinks differently from me in this matter, and feels able to disprove my statements, I will gladly confront him at any suitable time and place he may select.

translation: "Not only will I defeat flimsy arguments in debate; I will whoop your monkey ass -- any time, any place."

Remember, Douglass, who was still relatively young when he gave this speech, was frequently described as physically imposing.