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Inclusiveness and Diversity

Frederick Douglas and more
By Mike Pulsifer
Posted: 2023-04-01T04:00:00Z

Each month the Penn's Village Inclusiveness and Diversity Committee recommends several resources to help our members and friends to be more aware of the racial biases in each of us and in our society, and the resulting inequities, past and present. It is the committee’s hope that this information may even inspire us to make corrective changes. These resources assembled by Penn’s Village members represent different mediums, different perspectives and experiences, and diverse authors.

April, 2023 Frederick Douglas and more

A Library of America Lecture: Frederick Douglas: Prophet of Freedom by Dr. David W. Blight

One of Frederick Douglas’ first recorded anti-slavery speeches occurred on November 4, 1841, before the Plymouth County Anti-Slavery Society. His speech entitled “The Church and Prejudice,” criticized ministers who used the Bible to defend slavery. 1841 was the beginning of a five-decade career as the fiery, eloquent champion of abolition and emancipation, equal rights and human dignity. This extraordinary lecture by Dr. David W. Blight, a Yale historian and a Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer of Douglas, explores the genius of an exceptional man who escaped slavery to become one of the greatest orators and writers in American history. Please click here to learn more about this remarkable American.

National Constitution Center’s Podcast: A Panel Discussion of Fredrick Douglas’ Speech What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

In 1852, the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, New York, invited Frederick Douglass to give a Fourth of July speech. Douglass opted to speak on July 5 instead, and, addressing an audience of about 600, he delivered one of his most iconic speeches entitled “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” This podcast recorded at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center explores Douglass’ oration on racial injustice and the broken promises of equality and liberty laid out in the Declaration of Independence. David Blight, Pulitzer Prize-winning Douglass biographer, and Lucas Morel, an expert on Douglass and African American history and politics, join host Jeffrey Rosen. They discuss the context and content of the speech, which Blight calls “the rhetorical masterpiece of abolition.” They also explore Douglass’ views of the Declaration of Independence. Douglas believed that the principles expressed in the Declaration are eternal, but that America did not live up to them in practice—much less the founding principles of the Constitution. Finally, Blight and Morel reflect on what Douglass can teach us about the challenges America faces today, including the ongoing fight for racial justice and efforts to remove monuments around the country. To listen to this podcast click here.

Speech by Frederick Douglas at the Dedication of the Emancipation Memorial in Washington, D.C. (1876)

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) delivered a powerful speech in April 1876, at the dedication of the first public memorial for Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C.—a monument to his role as an emancipator. The memorial was paid for by contributions from ex-slaves. By 1876, Douglass was deeply concerned about the rollback of civil rights as the Reconstruction period was ending. It was also a presidential election year, as well as the nation’s Centennial. The stakes were high. Douglass thus used his dedication speech on the eleventh anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination to try to mobilize Black action and to attempt to rouse greater commitment from White allies. In 1865, Douglass had famously eulogized Lincoln as “emphatically the black man’s President,” but here he remembered him as “preeminently the white man’s President.” The full speech put this depressing shift into thoughtful context, but the juxtaposition was still painfully revealing. To read an excerpt of this speech or the entire speech please click here.

TED Talk:Three Lessons of Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage by Valarie Kaur

Valarie Kaur is a social justice activist, lawyer, filmmaker, innovator, mother and Sikh American thought leader who founded the Revolutionary Love Project—a movement that envisions a world where love is a public ethic. In this inspiring, poetic TED Talk watched by over 3.3 million viewers, Valarie Kaur says that the antidote to rising nationalism, polarization, and hate is to reclaim love as a revolutionary act. To learn how the choice to love can be a force for justice and the mending of community, click here.

One Book, One Philadelphia 2023: Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

This novel uses the narrative structure of the screenplay format to tell the story of Willis Wu, the "Generic Asian Man" who is stuck playing "Background Oriental Male" and occasionally "Delivery Guy" in a fictional police TV show Black and White. Wu’s dream is to be "Kung Fu Guy" on movie screens worldwide. He soon discovers that it is not easy to make this dream a reality. Ken Smith of the Asian Review of Books wrote, "Though much of his protagonist's insecurities are narrowly focused—not just Asian, but specifically Asian American—his accumulation of concerns becomes surprisingly inclusive.” This is Charles Yu’s second novel, and it won the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction.