The words of Frederick Douglass rang out on Beacon Hill just before the Independence Day holiday, part of an annual tradition acknowledging the struggle of African-American slaves.

In “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” Douglass had strong words for whites who celebrated national independence while slavery still reigned in the South.

Douglass wrote the acerbic speech in 1852 to remind abolitionists and other white Americans that the promises of freedom in the Declaration of Independence had not yet been extended to enslaved blacks.

Fran Smith read a passage before the crowd gathered at the Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Memorial across Beacon Street from the State House.

“Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar?”

Many of the speakers contrasted Douglass’ words with the current fragile state of race relations in the U.S.