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July 4th Oration 2020 – The Struggle for Justice Continues – via Zoom

July 4, 2020 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Using the framework of Frederick Douglass’s 1852 speech, ‘What to the Slave is Your Fourth of July”, let us come together to reflect on the meaning of July 4th in the context of our current political and social climate.


Guest Reader Jonathan Jones will read selected excerpts from Douglass’s speech. Featured Speaker Gretchin Sorin will offer reflective comments. We will recognize those volunteers who have done incredible things to help UREC realize its mission. We welcome a musical contribution from Toussaint Santicola Jones, and we will also share our signature Litany of Remembrance.


The legacy of the institution of slavery weighs us down as a nation, but, together, we can rise up and shake off the weight by carrying on the enduring legacy of our abolitionist forebears.


Due to the current COVID situation, we will gather electronically on Saturday, July 4 at 11am via Zoom. Connection and Registration details are below  –

You are invited to a Zoom meeting. Click Zoom Tips  for assistance navigating Zoom.
When: July 4, 2020 11:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.


Please have at the ready for the closing of the Oration a glass with liquid refreshment of your choosing that will be raised in unison with all participants so that we may salute those past, present and future who contribute to making our world a more equitable and just place.



Program – 2020 booklet

Program 2020 – single sided


This program is partially funded through a Sponsorship awarded by Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area at



Guest Speaker – Gretchin Sorin, featured speaker for the 11th annual July 4th Oration, will offer commentary on the contemporary relevance of July 4th in light of Douglass’s challenges  presented to his audience in 1852.

Gretchin Sorin is Director and Distinguished Professor of the Cooperstown Graduate Program, one of the nation’s leading programs in Museum Studies. She earned her MA at Cooperstown Graduate Program and her PhD in History at University at Albany, SUNY. After working as museum director, educator, and consultant to over 200 museums over 30 years, she returned to lead CGP. Her most recent publication is Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights. She is collaborating with filmmaker Ric Burns to create a documentary based on this book.

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Guest Reader – Jonathan Jones, featured reader for the 11th annual July 4th Oration, will offer an interpretive reading of excerpts from Frederick Douglass’s 1852 speech.

Jonathan Jones is Commissioner for Youth and Workforce Development for the City of Albany. Experienced public servant with a demonstrated history of creating policy, programs and opportunities to empower people, he is a strong community and social services professional with an MS in Educational Administration & Policy Studies from the State University of NY at Albany.

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Guest Musician – Lift Every Voice and Sing will be performed by Toussaint Santicola Jones

Albany High School Class of 2020 graduate Toussaint Santicola Jones will be attending Princeton University in the fall of 2021 and will study Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He is a composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist and is taking a gap year before college to work on a number of musical projects. After Princeton, he hopes to work to curb the effects of climate change, while composing and performing in his spare time.





July 4, 2020
11:00 am - 12:00 pm