Reading Frederick Douglass

Reading Douglass FAQs

What Is It?

At these participatory readings, people take turns reading parts of the speech aloud until the entire speech has been read. Where and how they do it and what happens before and after the reading, is up to the local event planners.  The reading might be held in front of town hall, the town office, court house, or school; on the town green, or in a classroom, place or worship, or living room.  Community leaders often take part in readings—people such as town officials, teachers and activists, the police and fire chiefs, heads of key organizations, and others.

Why Read this Speech?

Reading Frederick Douglass causes us to think in new ways about our nation’s history, affords opportunities to open up discourse about race relations and citizenship (especially immediately before or after the speech), and raises awareness of the role slavery and race continue to play in our history and national discourse.

How Can I Take Part?

The most successful Reading Frederick Douglass events are collaborative efforts, so the first step is to connect with community groups in your area who might be interested in participating with you. Libraries, churches, historical societies, community service groups, social justice organizations, and schools are among the potential partners.

Once your partners are lined up, let us know about your plans. You need not have all event details in place before contacting us.  You may either submit a proposal online or contact Reading Douglass coordinator Paul Marcus at 802.695.2968 or at .

After a public Reading Frederick Douglass event in Vermont, the first 25 groups to submit a brief report will receive $150. The final report, which should be submitted online (check back for final report link), needs to include photos of the event and/or a video of the event, and a release permitting us to use these materials.

We will update our Reading Frederick Douglass Events page as the events around the state are confirmed.

Where Can I Learn More about Frederick Douglass?

Visit our More about Frederick Douglass page.

What is the History of the Reading Frederick Douglass Program?

Reading Frederick Douglass began as a communal reading of the speech at Brown Bag lunches at Community Change, Inc. (CCI)’s Library on Racism in Boston, Massachusetts.

In 2009, CCI expanded the program through a collaboration with Mass Humanities and the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School. Each year since, there has been a major event on the Boston Common as well as events throughout Massachusetts. In 2012, the Federation of State Humanities Councils awarded Reading Frederick Douglass the Schwartz Prize for the Best Overall Program. With the help of Community Changes’ former Executive Director, Paul Marcus, now a Vermont resident, VHC is proud to bring the program to Vermont.

The Vermont Humanities Council thanks Mass Humanities for graciously allowing us to build Vermont’s Reading Frederick Douglass  program from their materials.