For the second year running, the Lebanon County branch of the NAACP will hold a community oration of 19th-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s famous speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

The now-annual event will begin at noon on Monday, July 5, on the campus of Lebanon Valley College. The event is free and open to the public.

Last year, the community oration of Douglass’s historic speech was held in Annville Town Square and was organized by the Annville Town Square Protesters for Racial Justice. Michael Schroeder, a professor of history at LVC and principal organizer of the event, noted that some 40 individuals participated to deliver the hour-long speech to an audience of more than 120 people.

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Among this year’s orators will be LVC President James MacLaren and Provost Monica Cowart.

“We as a nation have a solemn obligation to remember the horrors and enduring legacies of 246 (years) of racialized slavery,” Schroeder, who is also a member of the organizing committee of the recently chartered local branch of the NAACP, said in a statement. “This community oration offers an opportunity for our community to come together and reflect on our shared history, and to steel our resolve moving forward to build not just a non-racist future for our children and grandchildren, but an anti-racist future.”

The event will be held in the campus plaza in front of the Vernon & Doris Bishop Library, just off North White Oak Street (Route 934) at Church Street. Free parking is available in the municipal lot behind Annville Town Hall, 36 N. Lancaster St.

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Attendees are encouraged to arrive 15 to 30 minutes before the event begins and to bring lawn chairs if they want to sit for the oration. Security will be provided by LVC Public Safety and Annville Police.

Douglass was born a slave on Maryland’s Eastern Shore around 1818 and went on to become the most famous and accomplished African-American orator and public figure of the 19th century. When Douglass delivered the speech for the first time in Rochester, N.Y., on July 5, 1852, nearly 4 million African or Africa-descended slaves were living in the United States.


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