In this great American experiment, we must rely on the fundamental ideals the founders laid out in the beginning. After that initial revolution that birthed the United States of America, some eighty years later, we fought a civil war to solidify the course of our country.
We are at a similar, if not as outwardly violent, cross-roads once again. All colors. All religions, all creeds. LGBTQ or straight, ALL who strive and desire to live in peace with one another.
EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL. *ALL* people deserve, ney, HAVE these inalienable rights.
Let us not rest until this ideal is in fact, reality. Let us make it a reality. Let us say their names over and over until all peoples have justice and equal treatment across these fair and wide lands.
Take a listen to this profile of one woman’s life, striving to find her way, her own way, in this America.
[WASHINGTON] Ladies and gentlemen, you coulda been anywhere in the world tonight, but you’re here with us in New York City. Are you ready for a cabinet meeting???
The issue on the table: Secretary Hamilton’s plan to assume state debt and establish a national bank. Secretary Jefferson, you have the floor
[JEFFERSON] ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ We fought for these ideals; we shouldn’t settle for less These are wise words, enterprising men quote ‘em Don’t act surprised, you guys, cuz I wrote ‘em
[JEFFERSON] But Hamilton forgets His plan would have the government assume state’s debts Now, place your bets as to who that benefits: The very seat of government where Hamilton sits
[HAMILTON] Not true!
JEFFERSON Ooh, if the shoe fits, wear it If New York’s in debt- Why should Virginia bear it? Uh! Our debts are paid, I’m afraid Don’t tax the South cuz we got it made in the shade In Virginia, we plant seeds in the ground We create. You just wanna move our money around This financial plan is an outrageous demand And it’s too many damn pages for any man to understand Stand with me in the land of the free And pray to God we never see Hamilton’s candidacy Look, when Britain taxed our tea, we got frisky Imagine what gon’ happen when you try to tax our whisky
[WASHINGTON] Thank you, Secretary Jefferson. Secretary Hamilton, your response
[HAMILTON] Thomas. That was a real nice declaration Welcome to the present, we’re running a real nation Would you like to join us, or stay mellow Doin’ whatever the hell it is you do in Monticello? If we assume the debts, the union gets A new line of credit, a financial diuretic How do you not get it? If we’re aggressive and competitive The union gets a boost. You’d rather give it a sedative? A civics lesson from a slaver. Hey neighbor Your debts are paid cuz you don’t pay for labor “We plant seeds in the South. We create.” Yeah, keep ranting We know who’s really doing the planting And another thing, Mr. Age of Enlightenment Don’t lecture me about the war, you didn’t fight in it You think I’m frightened of you, man? We almost died in a trench While you were off getting high with the French Thomas Jefferson, always hesitant with the President Reticent-there isn’t a plan he doesn’t jettison Madison, you’re mad as a hatter, son, take your medicine Damn, you’re in worse shape than the national debt is in Sittin’ there useless as two shits Hey, turn around, bend over, I’ll show you Where my shoe fits
[WASHINGTON] Excuse me? Jefferson, Madison, take a walk! Hamilton, take a walk! We’ll reconvene after a brief recess. Hamilton!
[WASHINGTON] A word
[MADISON] You don’t have the votes
[JEFFERSON/MADISON] You don’t have the votes
[JEFFERSON] Aha-ha-ha ha!
[JEFFERSON/MADISON] You’re gonna need congressional approval and you don’t have the votes
[JEFFERSON] Such a blunder sometimes it makes me wonder why I even bring the thunder
[MADISON] Why he even brings the thunder…
[WASHINGTON] You wanna pull yourself together?
[HAMILTON] I’m sorry, these Virginians are birds of a feather
[WASHINGTON] Young man, I’m from Virginia, so watch your mouth
[HAMILTON] So we let Congress get held hostage by the South?
[WASHINGTON] You need the votes
[HAMILTON] No, we need bold strokes. We need this plan
[WASHINGTON] No, you need to convince more folks
[HAMILTON] James Madison won’t talk to me, that’s a nonstarter
[WASHINGTON] Winning was easy, young man. Governing’s harder
[HAMILTON] They’re being intransigent
[WASHINGTON] You have to find a compromise
[HAMILTON] But they don’t have a plan, they just hate mine!
[WASHINGTON] Convince them otherwise
[HAMILTON] What happens if I don’t get congressional approval?
[WASHINGTON] I imagine they’ll call for your removal
[WASHINGTON] Figure it out, Alexander. That’s an order from your commander
[BURR] Didja hear the news about good old General Mercer?
[BURR] You know Clermont Street?
[BURR] They renamed it after him. The Mercer legacy is secure
[BURR] And all he had to do was die
[HAMILTON] That’s a lot less work
[BURR] We oughta give it a try
[BURR] Now how’re you gonna get your debt plan through?
[HAMILTON] I guess I’m gonna fin’ly have to listen to you
[HAMILTON] “Talk less. Smile more.”
[HAMILTON] Do whatever it takes to get my plan on the Congress floor
[BURR] Now, Madison and Jefferson are merciless.
[HAMILTON] Well, hate the sin, love the sinner
[HAMILTON] I’m sorry Burr, I’ve gotta go
[HAMILTON] Decisions are happening over dinner
[BURR] Two Virginians and an immigrant walk into a room
[BURR AND ENSEMBLE] Diametric’ly opposed, foes
[BURR] They emerge with a compromise, having opened doors that were
[BURR AND ENSEMBLE] Previously closed
BURR The immigrant emerges with unprecedented financial power A system he can shape however he wants The Virginians emerge with the nation’s capital And here’s the pièce de résistance: [BURR] No one else was in The room where it happened The room where it happened The room where it happened No one else was in The room where it happened The room where it happened The room where it happened No one really knows how the game is played The art of the trade How the sausage gets made We just assume that it happens But no one else is in The room where it happens.
[ENSEMBLE] The room where it happened
The room where it happened
How the sausage gets made Assume that it happens
The room where it happens.
[BURR AND COMPANY] Thomas claims-
[JEFFERSON] Alexander was on Washington’s doorstep one day In distress ‘n disarray
[BURR AND COMPANY] Thomas claims-
[JEFFERSON] Alexander said-
[HAMILTON] I’ve nowhere else to turn!
[JEFFERSON] And basic’ly begged me to join the fray
[BURR AND COMPANY] Thomas claims-
[JEFFERSON] I approached Madison and said- “I know you hate ‘im, but let’s hear what he has to say.”
[BURR AND COMPANY] Thomas claims-
[JEFFERSON] Well, I arranged the meeting I arranged the menu, the venue, the seating
[BURR] But! No one else was in-
[BURR AND COMPANY] The room where it happened The room where it happened The room where it happened
[BURR] No one else was in-
[BURR AND COMPANY] The room where it happened The room where it happened The room where it happened [BURR] No one really knows how the Parties get to yesssss The pieces that are sacrificed in Ev’ry game of chesssss We just assume that it happens But no one else is in The room where it happens. [COMPANY] Parties get to yesssss
Ev’ry game of chesssss Assume that it happens
The room where it happens.
[BURR AND COMPANY] Meanwhile-
[BURR] Madison is grappling with the fact that not ev’ry issue can be settled by committee
[BURR] Congress is fighting over where to put the capital-
Company screams in chaos
[BURR] It isn’t pretty Then Jefferson approaches with a dinner and invite And Madison responds with Virginian insight:
[MADISON] Maybe we can solve one problem with another and win a victory for the Southerners, in other words-
[MADISON] A quid pro quo
[JEFFERSON] I suppose
[MADISON] Wouldn’t you like to work a little closer to home?
[JEFFERSON] Actually, I would
[MADISON] Well, I propose the Potomac
[JEFFERSON] And you’ll provide him his votes?
[MADISON] Well, we’ll see how it goes
[JEFFERSON] Let’s go
[COMPANY] -one else was in The room where it happened
[BURR AND COMPANY] The room where it happened The room where it happened No one else was in The room where it happened The room where it happened The room where it happened
[BURR] My God!
[BURR AND COMPANY] In God we trust But we’ll never really know what got discussed Click-boom then it happened
[BURR] And no one else was in the room where it happened
[COMPANY] Alexander Hamilton!
[BURR] What did they say to you to get you to sell New York City down the river?
[COMPANY] Alexander Hamilton!
[BURR] Did Washington know about the dinner? Was there Presidential pressure to deliver?
[COMPANY] Alexander Hamilton!
[BURR] Or did you know, even then, it doesn’t matter Where you put the U.S. Capital?
[HAMILTON] Cuz we’ll have the banks We’re in the same spot
[BURR] You got more than you gave
[HAMILTON] And I wanted what I got When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game Oh, you get love for it. You get hate for it You get nothing if you…
[HAMILTON AND COMPANY] Wait for it, wait for it, wait!
[HAMILTON] God help and forgive me I wanna build Something that’s gonna Outlive me [HAMILTON/JEFFERSON/ MADISON/WASHINGTON] What do you want, Burr? What do you want, Burr?
If you stand for nothing Burr, then what do you fall for? [COMPANY] What do you want, Burr? What do you want, Burr?
What do you want, Burr? What do you want?
[BURR] I Wanna be in The room where it happens The room where it happens I Wanna be in The room where it happens The room where it happens [BURR] I
Wanna be In the room where it happens
I wanna be in the room… Oh Oh
I wanna be I wanna be
I’ve got to be I’ve got to be In that room In that big ol’ room [COMPANY] I wanna be in The room where it happens The room where it happens The room where it happens
I wanna be in the room Where it happens The room where it happens The room where it happens I wanna be in The room where it happens The room where it happens The room where it happens
I wanna be in The room where it happens The room where it happens The room where it happens.
[COMPANY] The art of the compromise-
[BURR] Hold your nose and close your eyes
[COMPANY] We want our leaders to save the day-
[BURR] But we don’t get a say in what they trade away
[COMPANY] We dream of a brand new start-
[BURR] But we dream in the dark for the most part
[BURR AND COMPANY] Dark as a tomb where it happens [BURR] I’ve got to be in The room…
I’ve got to be…
I’ve got to be…
Oh, I’ve got to be in The room where it happens… I’ve got to be, I’ve gotta be, I’ve gotta be… In the room!
Click-boom! [COMPANY] The room where it happens
The room where it happens
The room where it happens
The room where it happens The room where it happens
I wanna be in the room Where it happens! Click-boom!
[WASHINGTON] The issue on the table: France is on the verge of war with England, and do we provide aid and our troops to our French allies or do we stay out of it? Remember, my decision on this matter is not subject to congressional approval. The only person you have to convince is me. Secretary Jefferson, you have the floor, sir
[JEFFERSON] When we were on death’s door, when we were needy We made a promise, we signed a treaty We needed money and guns and half a chance Who provided those funds?
[JEFFERSON] In return, they didn’t ask for land Only a promise that we’d lend a hand And stand with them if they fought against oppressors And revolution is messy but now is the time to stand Stand with our brothers as they fight against tyranny I know that Alexander Hamilton is here and he Would rather not have this debate I’ll remind you that he is not Secretary of State He knows nothing of loyalty Smells like new money, dresses like fake royalty Desperate to rise above his station Everything he does betrays the ideals of our nation
[JEFFERSON] Hey, and if ya don’t know, now ya know, Mr. President
[WASHINGTON] Thank you, Secretary Jefferson. Secretary Hamilton, your response
[HAMILTON] You must be out of your Goddamn mind if you think The President is gonna bring the nation to the brink Of meddling in the middle of a military mess A game of chess, where France is Queen and Kingless We signed a treaty with a King whose head is now in a basket Would you like to take it out and ask it? “Should we honor our treaty, King Louis’ head?” “Uh… do whatever you want, I’m super dead.”
[WASHINGTON] Enough. Hamilton is right
[JEFFERSON] Mr. President-
[WASHINGTON] We’re too fragile to start another fight
[JEFFERSON] But sir, do we not fight for freedom?
[WASHINGTON] Sure, when the French figure out who’s gonna lead ‘em
[JEFFERSON] The people are leading-
[WASHINGTON] The people are rioting There’s a difference. Frankly, it’s a little disquieting you would let your ideals blind you to reality Hamilton
[WASHINGTON] Draft a statement of neutrality
[JEFFERSON] Did you forget Lafayette?
[JEFFERSON] Have you an ounce of regret? You accumulate debt, you accumulate power Yet in their hour of need, you forget
[HAMILTON] Lafayette’s a smart man, he’ll be fine And before he was your friend, he was mine If we try to fight in every revolution in the world, we never stop Where do we draw the line?
[JEFFERSON] So quick-witted
[HAMILTON] Alas, I admit it
[JEFFERSON] I bet you were quite a lawyer
[HAMILTON] My defendants got acquitted
[JEFFERSON] Huh. Well, someone oughta remind you
[JEFFERSON] You’re nothing without Washington behind you
[BURR] It must be nice, it must be nice to have Washington on your side It must be nice, it must be nice to have Washington on your side
[JEFFERSON] Ev’ry action has its equal, opposite reactions Thanks to Hamilton, our cab’net’s fractured into factions Try not to crack under the stress, we’re breaking down like fractions We smack each other in the press, and we don’t print retractions I get no satisfaction witnessing his fits of passion The way he primps and preens and dresses like the pits of fashion Our poorest citizens, our farmers, live ration to ration As Wall Street robs ‘em blind in search of chips to cash in This prick is askin’ for someone to bring him to task Somebody gimme some dirt on this vacuous mass so we can at last unmask him I’ll pull the trigger on him, someone load the gun and cock it While we were all watching, he got Washington in his pocket
[JEFFERSON AND BURR] It must be nice, it must be nice to have Washington on your side It must be nice, it must be nice to have Washington on your side
Look back at the Bill of Rights
[MADISON] Which I wrote
[JEFFERSON/MADISON/BURR] The ink hasn’t dried It must be nice, it must be nice to have Washington on your side
[MADISON] So he’s doubled the size of the government Wasn’t the trouble with much our previous government size?
[BURR] Look in his eyes!
[JEFFERSON] See how he lies
[MADISON] Follow the scent of his enterprise
[JEFFERSON] Centralizing national credit And making American credit competitive
[MADISON] If we don’t stop it we aid and abet it
[JEFFERSON] I have to resign
[MADISON] Somebody has to stand up for the South!
[BURR] Somebody has to stand up to his mouth!
[JEFFERSON] If there’s a fire you’re trying to douse
[MADISON AND JEFFERSON] You can’t put it out from inside the house
[JEFFERSON] I’m in the cabinet. I am complicit in Watching him grabbin’ at power and kiss it If Washington isn’t gon’ listen To disciplined dissidents, this is the difference: This kid is out!
[MADISON/BURR/JEFFERSON] Oh! This immigrant isn’t somebody we chose Oh! This immigrant’s keeping us all on our toes Oh! Let’s show these Federalists who they’re up against! Oh!
[JEFFERSON/MADISON] Southern motherfuckin’-
[JEFFERSON/MADISON/BURR] Let’s follow the money and see where it goes
[JEFFERSON/MADISON/BURR] Because every second the Treasury grows
[JEFFERSON/MADISON/BURR] If we follow the money and see where it leads Get in the weeds, look for the seeds of Hamilton’s misdeeds
[JEFFERSON/MADISON/BURR] It must be nice. It must be nice
[MADISON] Follow the money and see where it goes
JEFFERSON/MADISON/BURR It must be nice. It must be nice
[JEFFERSON] The emperor has no clothes
[JEFFERSON/MADISON/BURR] We won’t be invisible. We won’t be denied Still It must be nice, it must be nice to have Washington on your side
A side note to provide a bit of added explanation – in case needed – as to why all the Hamilton lyrics post.
Love the musical. A
Saw it in San Francisco a couple years ago with my wife; she was so excited she saw it a second time the next weekend.
The music has played in our house since then. Our kids know some of the songs. I find myself listening over and over again. The songs are like a salve for my soul.
It seemed appropriate to capture some of the lyrics that are most meaningful to me in this blog, to further enshrine them.
And when better to do so than on 4th July weekend, as we celebrate 244 years of America; as our nation sits in a pandemic; as our immunities, our society take fresh aim at changing fundamental inequities within, injustice, police violence, systemic racism.
The great American Experiment continues. And “Hamilton” is high on the playlist.
[HAMILTON] A-After the war I went back to New York
[BURR] I finished up my studies and I practiced law
[HAMILTON] I practiced law, Burr worked next door [BURR] Even though we started at the very same time Alexander Hamilton began to climb How to account for his rise to the top? Maaaaan, the man is Non-stop!
[HAMILTON] Gentlemen of the jury, I’m curious, bear with me Are you aware that we’re making hist’ry? This is the first murder trial of our brand-new nation [HAMILTON] The liberty behind Deliberation-
[HAMILTON] I intend to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt With my assistant counsel-
[BURR] Co-counsel Hamilton, sit down Our client Levi Weeks is innocent. Call your first witness That’s all you had to say!
[HAMILTON] Okay! One more thing-
[BURR] Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room? Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room? Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room? Soon that attitude may be your doom!
[ENSEMBLE] Awwww! [BURR] Why do you write like you’re running out of time? Write day and night like you’re running out of time? Ev’ry day you fight, like you’re running out of time
Keep on fighting. In the meantime- [ENSEMBLE] Why do you write like you’re running out of time?
Ev’ry day you fight, like you’re running out of time
[HAMILTON] Corruption’s such an old song that we can sing along in harmony And nowhere is it stronger than in Albany This colony’s economy’s increasingly stalling and [HAMILTON] Honestly, that’s why public service Seems to be calling me.
[BURR AND ENSEMBLE] He’s just Non-stop!
[HAMILTON] I practiced the law, I practic’ly perfected it I’ve seen injustice in the world and I’ve corrected it Now for a strong central democracy If not, then I’ll be Socrates [HAMILTON] Throwing verbal rocks At these mediocrities.
[BURR] Hamilton, at the Constitutional Convention:
[HAMILTON] I was chosen for the Constitutional Convention
[BURR] There as a New York junior delegate: [HAMILTON] Now what I’m going to say may sound indelicate…
[BURR] Goes and proposes his own form of government!
His own plan for a new form of government!
[BURR] Talks for six hours! The convention is listless!
[ENSEMBLE MAN] Bright young man…
[ANOTHER ENSEMBLE MAN] Yo, who the f is this? [BURR] Why do you always say what you believe? Why do you always say what you believe? Ev’ry proclamation guarantees free ammunition for your enemies!
[BURR AND MEN] Why do you write like it’s Going out of style? Write day and night like it’s Going out of style?
[COMPANY] Why do you always say what you believe?
[ALL WOMEN] Going out of style, hey!
Going out of style, hey!
[BURR AND COMPANY] Ev’ry day you fight like it’s Going out of style Do what you do
[HAMILTON] Aaron Burr, sir
[BURR] It’s the middle of the night
[HAMILTON] Can we confer, sir?
[BURR] Is this a legal matter?
HAMILTON Yes, and it’s important to me
[BURR] What do you need?
[HAMILTON] Burr, you’re a better lawyer than me
[HAMILTON] I know I talk too much, I’m abrasive You’re incredible in court. You’re succinct, persuasive My client needs a strong defense. You’re the solution
[BURR] Who’s your client?
[HAMILTON] The new U.S. Constitution?
[HAMILTON] Hear me out
[BURR] No way!
[HAMILTON] A series of essays, anonymously published Defending the document to the public
[BURR] No one will read it
[HAMILTON] I disagree
[BURR] And if it fails?
[HAMILTON] Burr, that’s why we need it
[BURR] The constitution’s a mess
[HAMILTON] So it needs amendments
[BURR] It’s full of contradictions
[HAMILTON] So is independence We have to start somewhere
[BURR] No. No way
[HAMILTON] You’re making a mistake
[BURR] Good night
[HAMILTON] Hey What are you waiting for? What do you stall for?
[HAMILTON] We won the war What was it all for? Do you support this constitution?
[BURR] Of course
[HAMILTON] Then defend it
[BURR] And what if you’re backing the wrong horse?
[HAMILTON] Burr, we studied and we fought and we killed For the notion of a nation we now get to build For once in your life, take a stand with pride I don’t understand how you stand to the side [BURR] I’ll keep all my plans Close to my chest
I’ll wait here and see Which way the wind Will blow I’m taking my time Watching the Afterbirth of a nation Watching the tension grow.
[ENSEMBLE] Wait for it, wait for It, wait…
Which way the wind Will blow I’m taking my time Watching the Afterbirth of a nation Watching the tension grow.
[ANGELICA] I am sailing off to London. I’m accompanied by someone Who always pays I have found a wealthy husband who will keep Me in comfort for all my days He is not a lot of fun, but there’s no one who Can match you for turn of phrase My Alexander
[ANGELICA] Don’t forget to write
[ELIZA] Look at where you are Look at where you started The fact that you’re alive is a miracle Just stay alive, that would be enough And if your wife could share a fraction of your time If I could grant you peace of mind Would that be enough?
[BURR] Alexander joins forces with James Madison and John Jay to write a series of essays defending the new United States Constitution, entitled The Federalist Papers. The plan was to write a total of twenty-five essays, the work divided evenly among the three men. In the end, they wrote eighty-five essays, in the span of six months. John Jay got sick after writing five. James Madison wrote twenty-nine. Hamilton wrote the other fifty-one! [BURR] How do you write like you’re Running out of time? Write day and night like you’re Running out of time?
[BURR AND MEN] Ev’ry day you fight Like you’re Running out of time Like you’re Running out of time Are you Running out of time? [ALL WOMEN] Running out of time?
Running out of time?
Running out of time
Running out of time
[FULL COMPANY (EXCEPT HAMILTON)] How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive? How do you write like you need it to survive? How do you write ev’ry second you’re alive? Ev’ry second you’re alive? Ev’ry second you’re alive?
[WASHINGTON] They are asking me to lead I am doing the best I can To get the people that I need I’m asking you to be my right hand man
[HAMILTON] Treasury or State?
[WASHINGTON] I know it’s a lot to ask
[HAMILTON] Treasury or State?
[WASHINGTON] To leave behind the world you know…
[HAMILTON] Sir, do you want me to run the Treasury or State department?
[HAMILTON] Let’s go
[HAMILTON] I have to leave
[HAMILTON] Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now
[HAMILTON] They are asking me to lead
[ELIZA] Look around, isn’t this enough? [ANGELICA] He will never be satisfied He will never be satisfied
He will never be satisfied
Why do you fight like History has its eyes on you…
[HAMILTON] I am not throwin’ away my shot!
I am not throwin’ away my shot! I am Alexander Hamilton!
As we get ready for the Fourth of July tomorrow, we’re remembering a remarkable speech about Independence Day. In July of 1852 in Rochester, N.Y., a crowd of about 600 people gathered together in a hall. They’d been brought together by the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. Their guest speaker was Frederick Douglass. Douglass had been born enslaved. He’d secretly taught himself to read and write. He was a genius who became one of the best-known abolitionists and thinkers in the world. This speech that Douglass gave before that crowd in Rochester was called “What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?” Yale historian David Blight says it was one of the most riveting and compelling speeches Douglass ever gave.
DAVID BLIGHT: This speech is a symphony with three movements. First movement, he sets them at ease by honoring the Founding Fathers. He calls the Declaration of Independence the ring-bolt of American liberty. He calls the Fourth of July the American Passover. He sets them all at ease, but then he takes them through a litany of all the horrors of the slave trade, of the slave ships, of slave auction blocks. He takes that audience to the dark heart of what slavery really is.
And then that middle movement – he says, oh, be warned. Be warned. There is a horrible reptile coiled up at your nation’s heart. And then he ends. And the last movement of the speech, he says, your nation is still young. It is still malleable, changeable. It’s not quite too late. You might yet have a chance to save yourselves.
This speech is a rhetorical masterpiece. And its great theme is American secular and religious hypocrisy for the practice of slavery. And it is a great warning that if the country doesn’t find a way to face this problem, it will face tremendous disruption, tremendous violence. Today, it will remind people so much of the current crisis we’re in and this ever-lasting problem that we never quite are able to solve – the question of race.
KING: As you said, he doesn’t start this speech with a condemnation. He starts with a compliment. The Founding Fathers, he says, were great men. They were statesmen, patriots, heroes. Why does he begin that way?
BLIGHT: Well, he’s setting his audience in a safe place. Also, he meant what he said. He called the principles of the Declaration saving principles – equality, the natural rights tradition, popular sovereignty, which means a republican form of government, and the right of revolution. And he says, look, these were geniuses who created this republic out of the 18th century.
But then, of course, the rhetoric begins to shift. And in that middle of that speech, it is almost like a hailstorm. It’s like he’s raining down thunder and hail on his audience. And I have to believe some of them were squirming. And where you see it is how often he uses the pronouns you and your. It’s your nation. Your founders, your Declaration of Independence. You, your and you and your.
He’s separating himself already and says – I quote – “The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. The Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice. I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand, illuminated temple of liberty and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.”
KING: Was this speech a gutsy move? Or because he was in front of a friendly audience, was it extraordinary but not particularly brave?
BLIGHT: It was a gutsy move. Even if you’re speaking to a crowd, essentially, of your like-minded friends, this is still a very poignant attack on anyone who considered themselves a patriotic American. What Douglass is really doing here is pointing to America’s creeds, its first principles. They are right there in the Declaration of Independence. He says, you know, you’ve got the document. The principles are terrific. It’s the practice that violates it all.
KING: Have you ever thought, having spent so much time thinking about Frederick Douglass, if he were alive today, what he’d be doing and what he might say in his speeches, in a speech like this one?
BLIGHT: (Laughter) This much we know about his character. He would never miss using a crisis when something shocking happened. He was a creature of words. He was a genius with language. Douglass would go to words and try first to explain to himself what he thought about it. Then he would go take it out to the public. As for the kind of crisis we’re having now, who knows what he would say?
But after 130-some years, he’d say, you know, I died in the late 19th century, and you all are still at this? For God’s sake. But he also – I think he tried to harness young people. He’d be out there trying to harness this energy. And he would be harnessing it and devoting. He always believed that, somehow, the right to vote was at the core of liberty. And he would be out there right now, trying to harness them into voting.
But what he would be seeing is what we’re all seeing, possibly the third great reckoning about this in our history. The first was the Civil War and Reconstruction. The second was the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s. And now we’re probably having a third one – whatever we’re going to end up calling this. But he would be saying harness this now and try to get it right this time. And he’d warn us that the whole world is watching to see whether this thing called an American republic can really survive.
KING: Professor David Blight, author of the award-winning book “Frederick Douglass: Prophet Of Freedom.” Thank you so much for taking the time today.
BLIGHT: Thank you, Noel. It’s an honor.
KING: And on npr.org right you, you can watch an amazing short film featuring five young descendants of Frederick Douglass as they read and respond to excerpts of his famous speech.
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So this particular day, the 19 of June, is Juneteenth; and thus, a reading the words of the Emancipation Proclamation.
MICHEL MARTIN: By the president of the United States of America, a proclamation, whereas on the 22 day of September in the Year of Our Lord 1862, a proclamation was issued by the president of the United States, containing, among other things, the following – to wit…
NOEL KING: That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord 1863, all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thence forward and forever free.
SAM SANDERS: And the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons or any of them and any efforts they make for their actual freedom.
RODNEY CARMICHAEL: That the executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation designate the states and parts of states, if any, in which the people thereof respectively shall then be in rebellion against the United States.
JUANA SUMMERS: And the fact that any state or the people thereof shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such state shall have participated shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such state and the people thereof are not, then, in rebellion against the United States.
DWANE BROWN: Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States, by virtue of the power vested as commander in chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion…
AUDIE CORNISH: …Due on this first day of January in the year of our Lord 1863 and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of 100 days from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the states and parts of states wherein the people thereof respectively are this day in rebellion against the United States the following, to wit…
TONYA MOSLEY: Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana – except for the parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans – Mississippi, Alabama…
BRAKKTON BOOKER: …Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia – except the 48 counties designated as West Virginia and also the counties of Berkley, Accomack, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth – and which excepted parts are, for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.
KORVA COLEMAN: And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated states and parts of states are and henceforward shall be free.
GENE DEMBY: And that the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.
CHERYL CORLEY: And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense, and I recommend to them that in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.
ERIC DEGGANS: And I further declare and make known that such persons of suitable condition will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations and other places and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
AYESHA RASCOE: And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.
WALTER RAY WATSON: In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be fixed. Done at the city of Washington, this first day of January in the year of our Lord 1863 and of the independence of the United States of America the 87th.
By the president, Abraham Lincoln.
The reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to commemorate Juneteenth today, also known as Emancipation Day or Black Independence Day.
“FREE AT LAST”, Oh, I’m free at last, free at last.
To listen to the reading — well worth it — check it out via the following link.
I listened to Dave Chappelle’s piece, “8:46”, recently on Youtube. It’s a stand-up he did on 6 June 2020. The main topic is the murder of George Floyd.
8 minutes and 46 seconds is the amount of time the police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck during the arrest. Floyd died as a result of that treatment. I didn’t know the exact amount of time; but I’d seen clips of the video, heard some of the audio.
It was homicide caught on video and images otherwise.
As result of this murder, there have been protests in the streets of cities across the United States, and around the world. Protests and the fallout otherwise, including legislation to address the underlying shortcomings in society continue more than two weeks now.
Floyd was the latest in a long, long list of unarmed African-Americans that have died at the hands of police.
It’s long past time for change. It’s long past time for meaningful, permanent reforms in our American society where ALL people have equal opportunity, and equal protections.
My wise wife said to me recently when we were talking about all this, that the very helpful way white people like me can support this moment is to elevate those whose voices haven’t been heard. Or those voices that need to be heard more loudly, steadily, insistently.
And so let me elevate those that need to be heard. Those who have the expert insight, the genuine experiences that should guide us in this moment, this movement.
That’s the world, that’s the country, that’s the community I want my kids to grow up in: a world more equitable of opportunity AND protections.
I will elevate any voice that can move us in that direction. Let it be so.