Joseph Set for Annual Douglass Speech Reading at High Rock Park on July 3

By Cary Shuman

Lynn resident and event coordinator Wendy Joseph stands in front of a poster promoting the annual Frederick Douglass speech-reading, Independence Day program to be held on Monday, July 3 at 6 p.m. at High Rock Tower.

Wendy Joseph came to the North Shore from Bellingham (Mass.) when she enrolled as a student at Salem State University.

Joseph and her husband returned to the area when they purchased a home in the Highlands neighborhood in Lynn.

“As soon as I went to Salem State, I fell in love with this area and fell in love with the beach,” said Joseph, who studied theater and communications at the college and works as an art director for television commercials.

Joseph has been busy planning a major event in the city. She is the coordinator for the seventh annual community celebration featuring the reading of African-American orator and statesman Frederick Douglass’s famous 1852 speech on the meaning of Independence Day for the slave.

The celebration will be held on Monday, July 3 at 6 p.m. at High Rock Tower in Lynn.

“The attendance keeps getting larger every year,” said Joseph. “We schedule this event to coincide with the Lynn fireworks. At the end of the speech, everyone races to High Rock Tower to view the fireworks on Lynn Shore Drive and the surrounding towns.”

Thanks to a generous donation by Ward 4 Councilor Richard Colucci, youths will be able to enjoy free pony rides. There will also be balloon artistry, and face painters, along with musical entertainment and food vendors

The main program, funded by a grant from Mass. Humanities, will be the reading of Douglass’s speech. Forty-five residents – adults and children – will each read a one-minute paragraph of a condensed speech. In conjunction with the 115th anniversary of the Zion Baptist Church, youth from the church will participate in the reading.

“Douglass was asked by Congress to write about the significance of Independent Day,” said Joseph. “His powerful response was a four-hour speech that he delivered at a women’s suffrage meeting.”

Joseph said the Hutchinson family of Lynn, who donated the High Rock Tower site to the city in 1905, was a friend to Douglass.

“In his third autobiography, Douglass credits the Hutchinson family as people to whom he owed his success in life,” said Joseph. “Lynn was Douglass’s base for awhile and we want our youth to learn about this important aspect of our city’s history.”

Joseph said the program presents people with a good time to talk about the fundamentals of democracy.

“Frederick Douglass is ageless. He speaks to all ages and all faiths at all times,” she added.

Drew Russo, executive director of the Lynn Museum, said, “Though his time in Lynn was brief, Frederick Douglass’s place in our city’s history is an important one. His relationship with the Hutchinson Family helped propel him into the public consciousness, where he became a leader in the movement to end the scourge of slavery in our country. We are deeply grateful to Wendy Joseph for her efforts in coordinating the annual reading at High Rock Tower Reservation.”

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