On September 29, 1841 while living in Lynn, famed abolitionist and orator Fredrick Douglass and his friend James N. Buffum entered first-class cars on a Eastern Railroad Company’s train that was heading from Lynn Central Square station to Newburyport.
The conductor of the train approached the two men and ordered them to leave the car. Refusing to do so, two brakemen tried to physically remove the men.
For several days the train did not make the stop in Lynn knowing in the event that Douglass would come aboard again.
The event became one of the first protests against segregated transportation that would later inspire a whole new generation during the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
On Sunday, July 3 in honor of Douglass’ famed speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” North Shore Juneteenth Association (NSJA) will host a Reading Federick Douglas event at Frederick Douglas Park on Exchange Street in Lynn.
The event will kick off at 6 pm and feature musical performance, dance performance, vendors, that will culminate in the reading and discussion of Douglass’ 4th of July speech.
This will be the first year NSJA will have the honor of collaborating with Wendy Joseph to organize the community reading of Frederick Douglass’ speech. For years Joseph spearheaded Lynn’s annual reading of the speech.
Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838 and lived for many years in Massachusetts. He delivered the speech on July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, to the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society.
Using Indpedepence Day as a backdrop, Douglass’ speech is widely known for its irony and bitter rhetoric critiquing the promises of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and how those promises did not extend to the slave.
Funded in part through a grant from Mass Humanties, the Reading Frederick Douglass Together event will feature people gathering to read parts of Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” speech until they have completed it.
While Mass Humanities has hosted their own signature Reading Frederick Douglass Together events for some time, the organization provides grants to organizations interested in hosting a program in their community like NSJA.
“Lynn was home to Douglass and his family during a pivotal period in his life, so this event is special to Mass Humanities,” said Mass Humanities Executive Director Brian Boyles. “We’re so glad to see the partnership between our friends at NSJA and Wendy Joseph, one of the great leaders of Reading Frederick Douglass Together for years.”