What to do on July 4 and 5

For 90 years the New York Times has published a full-page facsimile of the original Declaration of Independence every fourth of July. I always considered it a rite of Americanism to read it, and I read it every July 4. I used to read the Times’s facsimile of the original, on paper; now I read it here: Here’s the Times’s reprint. It reminds me what America stands for, and however imperfect he was, what Jefferson’s vision of America is–today as in 1776.

But not every American’s vision. My friend, Michael Schroeder, history professor at Lebanon (Penna.) Valley College, taught me that I should read something else the next day, July 5. It’s Frederic Douglas’s speech, What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? It’s painful to read, but I think every American should read it.

It’s a part of our National heritage along with the Declaration of Independence and the Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Every American should read each, over and over. I recommend reading the Declaration every July 4; the Douglas speech every July 5 (he gave if July 5, 1852–thirteen years before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves of the Confederacy). And read King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail every Martin Luther King Day.


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