If you're in the Washington DC/Baltimore area over the Fourth of July holiday, be sure to stop into the Paca House and Gardens in Annapolis to hear Frederick Douglass recite an excerpt from his speech, "For What to a Slave is the Fourth of July." Douglass is played by renowned reenactor Nathan Richardson.
Lincoln Group members will remember Richardson from his appearances at two "teach-ins" at the Emancipation Memorial statue in Lincoln Park, downtown Washington DC, last summer. The statue had been targeted for mob action, but the Lincoln Group, other area historical associations, the five women of FREED (including Marcia Cole playing Charlotte Scott, the freed woman who initiated the fundraising drive to put up the statue), and Richardson as Douglass showed up to help inform the crowd of the statue's history.
The Paca House is a "Georgian mansion built in the 1760s by William Paca, one of Maryland’s four Signers of the Declaration of Independence and the state’s third Governor. Carefully restored by Historic Annapolis beginning in 1965, today it is recognized as one of the finest 18th-century homes in the country and a National Historic Landmark. In addition to Paca family members, the mansion also housed a number of servants and enslaved laborers. Though it is not known how many enslaved individuals lived in the home, the names of five individuals are known: Denby, Affey, Poll, Sall, and Bett."
The Frederick Douglass speech that Richardson will excerpt was given in Rochester on July 5, 1852. In it, Douglass examines how the American values of liberty, citizenship, and freedom did not extend to the vast enslaved population. The dichotomy of rights, or the lack thereof, has been called the "paradox of the positive" by researchers because it highlights how something positive could also exclude millions of individuals.
You can hear Richardson talk about the reasons for the speech, which "equally held America accountable for the institution of slavery but also affirmed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as a promise of life and liberty for all people." His appearances on July 4th at the Paca House and Garden are scheduled for 10:30 am, 11:30 am, and 12:30 am. More information can be found at https://www.visitannapolis.org/event/it%E2%80%99s-july-4-1776-at-historic-annapolis/8478/
Richardson will also be appearing on July 5th at the Northampton Plantation and Slave Quarters in Bowie, Maryland. More information can be found at https://www.pgparks.com/3009/Northampton-Plantation-Slave-Quarters
[Photo of Nathan Richardson as Frederick Douglass from Richardson's Facebook page]