This is a video of esteemed actor James Earl Jones reciting an excerpt from Frederick Douglass’s speech “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” (July 5, 1852). This speech begins so humbly: “Fellow citizens: pardon me…”. Douglass then explains to the crowd that the fourth of July is a white man’s holiday, unless the black man is truly free. How can someone who is enslaved celebrate liberty? As one of Douglass’s most famous speeches, it reminds the listeners, both in 1852 and 2012, that freedom is never fully attained.
I chose to post James Earl Jones’ recitation because his voice captures the original tone of the speech. His voice is resonates with sincerity and truth, just as the words of the speech resonate in the listener’s mind for days afterward. James Earl Jones often springs to mind when people discuss great modern African American actors. Like Frederick Douglass, he acts as the representative of a greater populous.