Free Public Reading of Frederick Douglass Historic Speech "What Does the Fourth of July Mean to the Negro?" on July 4th at Martha's Vineyard’s Inkwell Beach

Volunteers are welcomed to participate in a dramatic reading of Frederick Douglass’ landmark speech at 12th annual event hosted by Renaissance House Retreat for Writers & Artists. It’s a tribute to the 1852 powerful speech by Douglass, a pioneer in American social justice activism. The public is invited to be a part this cultural event that celebrates Independence Day by speaking out on diversity and equal rights.

Martha's Vineyard, MA, June 13, 2018 --( Renaissance House Retreat for Writers & Artists invites the public to celebrate Independence Day by participating in the 12th annual free dramatic reading of Frederick Douglass' powerful landmark speech "What Does the Fourth of July Mean to the Negro?" at Martha's Vineyard's historic Inkwell Beach in Oak Bluffs on July 4 at 4:00pm.

Readers of all ages are invited to help bring the words of Frederick Douglass to life. Each volunteer reader will recite different sections of the 10,000-plus word address Douglass wrote during American slavery in 1852. Although it's been 166 years since Frederick Douglass delivered his Fourth of July speech at a convention in Rochester, New York, the message specially resonates during today's turbulent political era.

"It's a stand for diversity and human rights," said Abigail McGrath, Founder of Renaissance House Retreat for Writers & Artists and host of the event. McGrath is a lifelong Martha's Vineyard resident who created this community reading to celebrate the continuing impact of Douglass, the first Black citizen in U.S. history to hold a high-ranking government office. "Frederick Douglass' words are being carried out over the Atlantic waters where millions of Africans lost their lives during the Middle Passage. These blue waters are the perfect natural backdrop for public open-air readings of the most powerful anti-slavery message of all time."

The director-editor-producer of the Renaissance House program on Frederick Douglass is Makani Themba, Chief Strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies based in Detroit, Michigan. A social justice innovator and pioneer in the field of change communications and narrative strategy, she has spent more than 20 years supporting organizations, coalitions and philanthropic institutions in developing high impact change initiatives. Themba condensed the speech and tailored it to fit the needs of those who participate.

"It's been an honor over these years to be a part of what has become a Vineyard tradition. Each year we come together, we breathe new life into Frederick Douglass' powerful words," said Themba. They sound like they were written today. You cannot read them or listen to them and not be moved - especially in these times."

Renaissance House is a writers and artists' retreat sponsored by the Helene Johnson and Dorothy West Foundation. West, the author of the award-winning novel and film The Wedding, and her poet cousin Johnson (Mc Grath's mother) were writers during the Harlem Renaissance. In fact, McGrath, an author, playwright and filmmaker, was the inspiration for the novel The Wedding. At Renaissance House, writers and other artists are provided with a subsidized retreat away from life's responsibilities and the space in which to create new works of art. It is one of the few retreats designed for issue-oriented writers, writers of color and writers of social justice.

Readers are requested to arrive by 3:30pm. The reading begins at 4:00pm. The public is invited to attend the performance. For more on the Frederick Douglass reading on July 4, please call Renaissance House at 917-747-0367 or email
Renaissance House Retreat for Writers & Artists
Abigail McGrath