Mahershala Ali reads a snippet of Frederick Douglass’ famous 1852 speech, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” in a new clip from the upcoming docuseries, Amend: The Fight for America, arriving on Netflix February 17th.
Amend will explore the history and legacy of the 14th Amendment, which was established after the Civil War and promised equal protection for all people under the law. Will Smith will host the six-episode series, which will combine traditional documentary interviews with clips like this one from Ali, where performers recite the speeches and writings of some of the 14th Amendment’s most ardent defenders and opponents.
In the video, Ali delivers the genial intro to the “Fourth of July” speech, after which historian David Blight notes how Douglass purposely used the opening moments to praise America and make his audience feel comfortable, before arriving at his real point. “Why am I called upon to speak here today?” Ali reads. “What have I, or those who I represent, to do with your national independence? The Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”
Along with Ali, Amend will feature performances from Diane Lane, Samuel L. Jackson, Pedro Pascal, Yara Shahidi, Laverne Cox, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sterling K. Brown, and more. They will be reading from the works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Andrew Johnson.