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Annual Frederick Douglass Reading On Martha's Vineyard Goes Virtual

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass in an undated photo. (AP)
Abolitionist Frederick Douglass in an undated photo. (AP)

A 20-year-old Fourth of July tradition on Martha's Vineyard is moving online this year because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Normally, Renaissance House, a retreat for writers, hosts the annual reading of a speech by abolitionist Frederick Douglass called "What to the Slave is the 4th of July" at the Inkwell Beach in Oak Bluffs.

Renaissance House director Abigail McGrath said participants will record themselves reading the speech. "This time they're going to read personally the whole thing through. You can watch the whole thing through as we do it, but to read the whole thing through is another wonderful element," she told WBUR.

Videos of the readers will be edited together, and Renaissance House will share the reading on YouTube.

Douglass's speech dates to July 5, 1852 when he delivered it in Rochester, New York to the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society.

“He gave the speech knowing that he risked arrest and possible death. It is a speech which is seldom part of mainstream curriculum. It is a speech which becomes more and more relevant every day. It is a speech which everyone should hear. Now, everyone who wants to, can participate,” McGrath said in a statement.

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