Looking Back and Looking Forward: Reading Frederick Douglass in Egleston Square

Our beautiful community gathered for Egleston Square Main Street’s 6th annual reading of Frederick Douglass’s speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” on Saturday, August 28, 2021 at Ula Café. Last year’s event was funded by a generous grant from Mass Humanities Reading Frederick Douglas Together program.

For the last six years, a diverse group of Egleston Square neighbors has come together to read Douglass’s seminal speech in an outdoor space every summer. We take turns reading from the text, then discuss the historical context and how the speech resonates today. 

In 2020 and 2021, we partnered with Egleston Square Neighborhood Association (ESNA) to organize the event in collaboration with Call it Out, an initiative to end systemic racism in Egleston Square. Call it Out was co-founded by Egleston residents Marvin (Jonathan) Watkins and Marvin Mathelier, Ula Café co-owner and ESMS Economic Development Action Team member. Last year’s event was among the first the café hosted as part of a series of collaborations with artists, creators, makers and small businesses. 

This year, Paula Elliott, a vocalist, artist, educator, and storyteller brought musical performance to convene the audience and bring more depth to our reading. Project scholar Paula C. Austin guided the group through a community dialogue and sharing of thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Austin is a U.S. historian who teaches African American history, the history of race and racism, and civil rights and social movement history. Both Elliott and Austin live in Jamaica Plain.

Join us in organizing this event this summer! To get involved, please get in touch with us at placekeeping@eglestonsquare.org, call 617-637-2270, or join us at our upcoming Art & Public Spaces meeting (location TBA) on Monday, May 23, 6:30-8pm!