In This Issue:

Frederick Douglass

Imagined Memories

Black Love in Princeton


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Frederick Douglass


American Social Reformer, Abolitionist, Orator, Writer, Statesman


By Shirley A. Satterfield


Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born in Cordova, Maryland in 1817. He was born into slavery and kept in bondage until he escaped when he was 21 years old. He first changed his name to Frederick Johnson, the surname of his close friend, to avoid being recaptured into slavery. After successfully escaping from slavery in 1838, he and his wife, Anna Murray, adopted the last name Douglass. His last name was taken from a poem, The Lady of the Lake, by Sir Walter Scott.


Once Mr. Douglass was free, he became a skilled orator, author and a powerful abolitionist. He is known as the most important leader of the movement for African American Civil Rights in the 19th century. He gained fame for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings when he was a national leader of the abolitionist movement.


As an abolitionist and his work with the Underground Railroad, it is estimated that he helped to free at least 400 runaway slaves. He defined slavery as a permeating system of oppression and abuse that is forced upon people of color, in such a way that they cannot fully understand the atrocity or determine ways to overcome it. He used his own life experiences to highlight the effects of slavery on society ad how he discovered the pathway to freedom.


Frederick Douglass had the ability to read and write, he could speak in public about the plight of the Negro. His noted speech, What to the Slave is the Fourth of July, addresses many wrongs suffered by enslaved and free Negroes. He believed the freedom meant that a human should be able to make a choice without constraints being placed on them. Furthermore, his noted speech draws parallels between the Revolutionary War and the fight to abolish slavery. In his speech he addressed an audience in Rochester, New York to think about the ongoing oppression of Negro Americans during the Fourth of July holiday celebrating freedom.


Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879. Photograph by George K. Warren (d. 1884)


What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?


In the early 1850’s there were tensions over slavery across the United States.  The Compromise of 1850 had failed to resolve the controversy over the admission of new slaveholding states to the union.  People across the country were thinking and arguing about slavery, abolitionism, and the future of the nation.


Frederick Douglass was invited to give a speech by the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, New York.  He agreed to deliver the speech on July 5, 1852 because he felt that the Fourth of July did not hold any significance for enslaved African Americans because they were still denied their basic rights and freedom.


This speech was delivered because Frederick Douglass sought to convince people about the wrongfulness of slavery, and to make abolition more acceptable to Northern white people.


Excerpt from Frederick Douglass’ speech:


“…I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, independence, bequeathed by your father’s, is shared by you, not by me. This 4th of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.  Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin! I can today take up the plaintiff lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!”


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Community Calendar

WJHCS Trustees Recent Accomplishments and Honors:


Honoree: Leighton Newlin

Date: January 5, 2022

Elected: Princeton Councilmember


Honoree: Rev. Gregory Smith

Award: Ordination and Installation as Pastor

Date: November 20, 2021

Awarded By: Second Calvary Baptist Church, Hopewell, NJ



Honoree: Shirley Satterfield

Award: Community Engagement Award

Date: November 17, 2021

Awarded By: Princeton University and Pace Center for Civic Engagement


Honoree: Shirley A. Satterfield

Award: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award

Date: January 16, 2021

Awarded By: New Jersey Education Association (NJEA)

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