Reading Frederick Douglass Together in Sudbury

This event took place on 

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Photos above and below were taken during the event.

Athina Education and First Parish of Sudbury are co-hosting a community read-aloud of Frederick Douglass's address, What to the Slave is the 4th of July? The event will begin outdoors on the terrace of First Parish (weather permitting). After the reading, everyone is invited indoors for light refreshments and to reflect on the words of Douglass by participating in a community art project.

This event is FREE and open to the public. Sign up to read a part of the speech aloud during the event HERE.

The theme of this year's reading will be the burden of the past and the legacy of oppression. Frederick Douglass visited Sudbury on at least two occasions. One visit in the 1860s was with his friend, abolitionist Israel Howe Brown, which was, by all accounts, a pleasant visit. Not the same can be said of an earlier visit in 1844, of which Douglass said, in a letter to William Lloyd Garrison dated March 6 of the same year:

Monday, I came to this place; of all the dark places in Massachusetts, this is the darkest…It was impossible to get us a meeting in this place. The clergy here bare almost entire sway. They decide for the people what they shall hear, and what they shall not hear. Each of the ministers of this place devoted a good part of the last Sabbath in warning their congregations against attending our meeting! The consequence is, that a mob is threatened, if we should attempt to hold the meeting according to notice. We should not, however, be intim[id]ated by that, if we could get the people out. But this we cannot do, and must, therefore, pass this place by, at least for the present. [bold emphasis added]

In 1844, Douglass felt unwelcome, and many others have had similar, unpleasant experiences since his visit. Sudbury, like many New England towns, views itself as a “nice” place with “nice” people, and yet, there have been many situations, past and present, where people of color have felt unwelcome, and some still feel unwelcome today. The overarching essential question for this event will be, What does belonging mean to me? Attendees who participate in the art activity after the reading will be asked to reflect on this and the following questions: 

This program is co-hosted by Athina Education and First Parish of Sudbury, and funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.