Frederick Douglass’ ‘July Fourth’ Speech Remains True As Trump Seeks Re-Election, Supreme Court’s Rulings, And Project 2025

“As a nation comes together to celebrate July Fourth, Douglass’ words continues to reveal the hypocrisy of celebrating this day.”

 

The July Fourth holiday is framed as a day to celebrate America’s independence. But the contradictions of a nation celebrating such a day, while Black people remained marginalized, was masterfully presented by Fredrick Douglass on July 5, 1852. 

With his speech “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?,” Douglass presented the harsh reality of Black enslaved people who endured ongoing cruelty within a nation that had the audacity to celebrate freedom. 

Douglass said July Fourth as “a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless.”

But 172 years later, those words are more true than ever as Donald Trump seeks re-election and following several discriminatory rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court.  

The Supreme Court ended race-based college admissions that will severely impact Black students seeking higher education. However, legacy students, the students whose parents donated money, and students of staff members are still eligible to receive special treatment when it comes to college admissions.  

The ruling created a national attack by right-wing lawmakers on diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

In June, an Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals halted the Fearless Fund’s program which seeks to provide funds for businesses led by Black women. Two judges appointed by Trump ruled 2-1 that the Fearless Fund is not protected by the First Amendment in its efforts to provide grants for Black women in business. 

The court ruled that the Fearless Fund violated the 1866 Civil Rights Act which prohibits the use of race in making contracts. The original law was issued to remedy discrimination against Black Americans post-slavery. 

In the past four years, the Supreme Court has made race-based admissions in education illegal; gutted Roe v Wade and women’s rights; ruled that some Jan. 6 offenders should not face criminal charges; and the presidents have immunity from criminal acts if the crime is an “official act.”

But a more detrimental impact could be seen if Trump is re-elected. It’s likely that Trump would be able to name two younger Supreme Court justices who would continue to pass draconian laws that would impact the next 40 years. 

He would also be able to implement “Project 2025,” a plan created by The Heritage Foundation which outlines initiatives for the first 180 days of a possible return of the Trump administration. 

The Project 2025 initiative aims to destroy affirmative action, DEI and would eliminate what right-wing figures believe is “anti-white racism.” The Department of Justice would be able to prosecute any entities that implement affirmative action or DEI policies.  

So when a nation comes together to celebrate July Fourth in the midst of Supreme Court’s ruling and Project 2025’s plan to dismantle DEI, Douglass’ words continues to reveal the hypocrisy of celebrating this day. 

“Your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages,” Douglass said.  

But in the midst of calling out the nation’s harsh realities, he spoke about providing better provisions for the future. A note that can resonate today. 

“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future,” Douglass said. “To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time. Your fathers have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. You live and must die, and you must do your work.”

The work must be done from every sector of society to fight against the onslaught of an abnormal Supreme Court skewed by three justices appointed during the erratic Trump Administration. Politicians, lawmakers, business leaders, educators, and media figures should be encouraged to counter discrimination in all forms. It’s the only way to truly represent the ideas of July Fourth and America being the “Land of the free.” 

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