Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass delivered a speech to an anti-slavery society and he famously asked “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

In this episode, we explore Douglass’ thoughtful question within the context of Early America: What did the Fourth of July mean for African Americans in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries?

To help us investigate this question, we are joined by Martha S. Jones, the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University, and Christopher Bonner, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Maryland.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.

Episode Summary

To help us investigate what  the Fourth of July meant for African Americans in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, we are joined by Martha S. Jones, the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University, and Christopher Bonner, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Maryland.

What You’ll Discover

  • African American contributions to the American Revolution
  • Ways African Americans made the Revolution their own
  • Choices African Americans had when it came to military service
  • Numbers of African Americans who served in the British & Continental Armies
  • How the Declaration of Independence impacted the Revolution for African Americans
  • How black Americans thought about the Declaration of Independence
  • What African Americans thought about slaveholder Thomas Jefferson’s authorship of the Declaration
  • The Revolution as a “Black Declaration of Independence”
  • How African Americans tested the founding principles in the Declaration of Independence
  • Elizabeth Freeman and freedom suits
  • How black Americans used the founding documents
  • Black political activism
  • Black newspapers
  • The Colored Convention Movement
  • African American commemorations of the Fourth of July
  • African American celebrations of emancipation
  • How African Americans' relationship with the Fourth of July has changed over time

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