By Isabelle Hallé /

PORTSMOUTH — “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn,” Kevin Wade Mitchell said, reading the words of abolitionist Frederick Douglass to a full house at Strawbery Banke Museum Monday.

In an event sponsored by the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire and the museum, community members gathered to take part in reading Frederick Douglass’ famous speech: “What to the Slaves is the Fourth of July?”

Douglass, an escaped slave and prominent abolitionist, orator, and writer, wrote and delivered the speech in 1852, when he was asked to speak at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

“The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common,” read Mitchell. “The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me.”

For many of those in attendance at Strawbery Banke, Douglass’ speech held powerful parallels with the present.