About the Vermont Humanities Council

Because Ideas Matter

“The reading was so meaningful, we should do it every year.”

The readers of Frederick Douglass’ Independence Day speech in Worcester.

Kathy Johnson helped organize a reading of Frederick Douglass’s fiery 1852 Independence Day speech on the Worcester village green in 2017. “The Fourth of July event is the one thing in Worcester that everyone comes out for,” Kathy said. “The reading seemed to bring shape and context to the day and helped ground us in the true history of what we were celebrating.”

She coordinated the joint effort between Central VT Showing Up for Racial Justice, the Worcester Historical Society, and the Worcester Fourth of July Planning Committee to add the program to the town’s festivities. Twenty-nine people read the 35-minute speech aloud, and another 60 listened on a beautiful summer’s day.

Noting that some listeners may have never heard anything written by Frederick Douglass, Kathy felt that “having your neighbors read this speech aloud made it especially powerful.”

Kathy Johnson helped organize the Worcester event in 2017.

Many listeners commented on how contemporary the speech seemed, even though it was written over 165 years ago. People lingered to discuss the speech afterwards, and many picked up free copies of a Douglass biography provided by VHC. Kathy said that a robust—and respectful—dialog on Facebook by townspeople after the event was another pleasant outcome of the day.

“Many people told me that the reading was so meaningful that we should do it every year.”

More about Reading Frederick Douglass

Includes a list of Reading Frederick Douglass events taking place across Vermont.