Readings of the Declaration of Independence and Frederick Douglass’s 1852 Oration

Friday, July 5, 2024 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Open to: 

To mark Independence Day 2024, the Beinecke Library continues its tradition of public readings on July 5 at 4pm on the library mezzanine of the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, and of the oration by Frederick Douglass given on July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, in which he asked: “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?”

These readings accompany an exhibition, on view from June 20 to July 15 of the first printing of the Declaration, and other key documents of national history. The Beinecke exhibition hall is free and open to all seven days a week (closed on July 4). Visit the library’s website for details on daily hours.

All who attend will be invited to enter fully into the spirit of the occasion, with respect for the founders, for Douglass, and for fellow audience members. There were no electronics when the Declaration was first read aloud in 1776. Douglass did not face competition with digital devices during his oration in 1852. All present for the readings will be kindly invited to silence and stow mobile phones, cameras, and other electronic devices, as their use would distract the readers and audience.

This event features the full readings of the Declaration of Independence, Douglass’s oration, the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments, and excerpts from “The Life of William Grimes.” The event runs over 90 minutes with no intermission. All who attend are kindly asked to stay for the duration in respect to the readers and your fellow audience members.

Please note that seating is available on a first-come, first-seated basis. The event is in person and will not be streamed or recorded for later publication. If you are unable to attend, we invite you to enjoy video of readings of the Declaration of Independence and Douglass’s Oration on the Beinecke Library YouTube channel: