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.
This episode originally posted as Episode 277.
This episode is supported by an American Rescue Plan grant to the Omohundro Institute from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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.
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
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Martha S. Jones
- Christopher Bonner
- Martha Jones, Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America
- Martha Jones, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All
- Christopher Bonner, Remaking the Republic: Black Politics and the Creation of American Citizenship
- Benjamin Quarles,The Negro in the American Revolution
- Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” 1852
- James Forten, Letters from a Man of Colour on a late bill before the Senate of Pennsylvania, 1813
- Massachusetts State Constitution of 1780
- Elizabeth Freeman
- Declaration of Independence
- Articles of Confederation
- United States Constitution
- Colored Conventions Project
- New York Times 1619 Project
- Read to Lead Podcast
- New Books in African American Studies Podcast
- Omohundro Institute
- Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
- Seizing Freedom Podcast
- Derrick Spires, “Dreams of a Revolution Deferred”
- Suggested Readings: “Slavery and the American Revolution”
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- Episode 018: Danielle Allen, Our Declaration
- Episode 119: Steve Pincus, The Heart of the Declaration
- Episode 141: A Declaration in Draft
- Episode 157: The Revolution’s African American Soldiers
- Episode 166: Freedom and the American Revolution
- Episode 245: Celebrating the Fourth
- Episode 255: Martha S. Jones, Birthright Citizens
- Episode 304: Annette Gordon-Reed, On Juneteenth
- Episode 306: The Horse's Tail: Revolution and Memory in Early New York City
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