History resonates today in the Great Speeches by Frederick Douglass, the author, abolitionist, political activist, and philosopher. Frederick Douglass was a pivotal figure in the decades of struggle leading up to the Civil War and the Reconstruction era. This inexpensive compilation of his speeches adds vital detail to the portrait of a great historical figure.
Featured addresses include "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" which was delivered on July 5, 1852, more than ten years before the Emancipation Proclamation. "Had I the ability, and could reach the nation's ear, I would, today, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke," Douglass assured his listeners, "For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake." Other eloquent and dramatic orations include "Self-Made Men," first delivered in 1859, which defines the principles behind individual success, and "The Church and Prejudice," delivered at the Plymouth County Anti-Slavery Society in 1841.
From February 11, 2022, Our Composite Nation: Frederick Douglass' America shines a light on the late 1860s—at a moment of great hope for the promise of equality under the law. The famed orator and once-enslaved abolitionist Frederick Douglass took his “Our Composite Nation” speech on the road to argue for a plural American democracy. The mission of this new nation, he declared, was to provide the world “a composite, perfect illustration of the unity of the human family.” For what was the U.S., he said, but “the most conspicuous example of composite nationality in the world?” This special installation features artifacts, images, and a theatrical design that bring Douglass’ compelling speech to life and explores his vision of freedom, citizenship, and equal rights that remains urgently relevant today, as a hopeful plea for America to live up to its founding ideals.