The commemoration of the Declaration of Independence is celebrated annually on July 4 with parades, fireworks and the great American tradition of a cookout.
In recent years, alongside overt displays of patriotism, people have also begun convening to publicly read from abolitionist Frederick Douglass' speech about the slave's perspective of Independence Day, first delivered in 1852.
"Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?" he asks in the speech, which was later given the title "What Is The Slave To The Fourth Of July?"
"What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?" Douglass, who was a writer and famed orator, says in the speech. "I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim."
Historian Nancy Koehn said on Boston Public Radio Monday that the speech continues to be relevant today, highlighting the hypocrisy of the holiday and the vast inequities of the American experience for different communities.
"He builds up, on the one hand, this astounding offering to the American experiment, America as a bastion of democracy, then having built up this temple, he's prepared to tear it down from the perspective of the slave," Koehn said. "He's very good at saying, 'Yes, that's one way of seeing it, and there's validity there, and there's another way of seeing it, and it's very important we talk about both.'"
On July 2, people from across Massachusetts willgather at 12 p.m.on Boston Common near the statehouse for the 11th annual public reading of Douglass' address.
Nancy Koehn is an historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robison chair of Business Administration. Her latest book is Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times.