To celebrate the history of our independence and freedom, more than 50 local celebrity and citizen volunteers from the Milton and Greater Boston communities will share a reading of Frederick Douglass’s famous 1852 speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July.”
This event, co-sponsored by the Forbes House Museum and Courageous Conversations Towards Racial Justice (CCTRJ), will take place on Thursday, June 27 at 7 p.m. on the lawn of the Forbes House Museum on 215 Adams St. All are welcome.
“In fact, we are still actively searching for volunteers who would like to take part in the reading,” stated Karen Groce-Horan, co-founder of CCTRJ. “Students from middle school age to adults of any age are invited to the podium to read a paragraph. We appreciate participation from all people of diverse backgrounds and ages.”
Following the reading, supported in part by Mass Humanities and Celebrate Milton!, the audience will be invited to participate in a moderated discussion about today’s race relations and citizenship led by Kevin Dua, the Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year in 2017 and a history teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.
Douglass, who has been called the father of the civil rights movement, was an escaped slave who became a renowned abolitionist, orator, author, publisher and activist. After President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, Douglas continued to advocate for women’s and human rights until his death in 1895.
“Douglass’s speech remains provocative centuries after its initial reading,” according to Mass Humanities, a foundation that coordinates annual public readings of this speech with communities and organizations throughout the state. “The readings are opening up discourse on race relations and citizenship and raising awareness of the influential role that slavery continues to play in our history and national discourse.”
Forbes House Museum visitors know that the last Forbes family member to live in the great mansion, Mary Bowditch (1878-1962), had a remarkable collection of Lincoln and Civil War memorabilia. She had her carpenter build an exact replica of the Kentucky one-room log cabin where Lincoln was born.
Both the museum and the log cabin will be open free for event attendees, starting at 5:30 p.m. until the start of the reading an hour and a half later. The main mansion will remain open throughout the event for restroom use only.
According to Forbes House Museum Executive Director Heidi Vaughan, Bowditch invited Civil War veterans, former slaves, local families, and school children to view her collection and reflect on the legacy of Lincoln.
“This upcoming event builds on Mary’s tradition by bringing together what we hope will be a broadly representative audience to reflect on the legacy of Frederick Douglass, intertwined as it is with Lincoln's, and considering Douglass' words in a contemporary context,” Vaughan said.
CCTRJ, in partnership with the Miton Interfaith Clergy Association, addresses racism and racial healing, privilege and equity, and justice in the community through monthly facilitated dialogues. This initiative, growing in attendees and geography, attracts a diverse group of people representing an array of life experiences, circumstances, and choices.