This year, Carrboro held its Fourth of July celebrations and traditions virtually, including the annual reading of Frederick Douglass' essay, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”
At noon on July 4, the Town of Carrboro released the video reading of the essay on its YouTube channel. The video included the mayor’s introduction, a speech by keynote speaker Anita Earls, associate justice of the N.C. Supreme Court and community members coming together to read Douglass’ famous work.
Mayor Lydia Lavelle started off the annual reading in front of Carrboro Town Hall, where the July Fourth festivities are normally held.
“Now when I first became mayor, I guess seven years ago, James Williams, our then-Orange County public defender, approached me and the Town with this idea,” Lavelle said. “We started doing the reading that same year.”
The Carrboro mayor said under normal circumstances, hundreds of residents attend this event, making it one of the most highly attended events for the Town.
After the mayor’s introduction, Lavelle introduced Earls, who serves as co-chairperson on Gov. Roy Cooper’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice. Earls’ remarks included a presentation with images from the recent Black Lives Matter protests occurring across the nation.
“Before this moment of America’s reckoning with race, the warm, sweet air was already charged,” Earls said. “A killer virus had ripped through Black communities; bullets too.”
Earls said that in Black communities and across the United States, George Floyd’s killing has sparked a movement unlike any other.
“His death during the last light of Memorial Day has unleashed one of the most explosive trials of American racism in modern times,” Earls said.